Job seekers drawn into possible money laundering scheme
Published Monday, March 25, 2019 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, March 25, 2019 7:15PM PDT
The Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C. has issued a warning about an employment ad that has dashed the hopes of job seekers across the country. Not only did applicants not get paid, they may have unwittingly been drawn into a money laundering scheme.
It started out with a job posting on Indeed from a company called President Youth Program looking for an administrative assistant. The company supposedly offered services for a youth cultural exchange program and listed an address in Vancouver’s Yaletown.
Jessica Knobloch from Ottawa responded to the ad and filled out a bunch of paperwork.
“I’ve done work for these people, like I’ve made a 30-page presentation. I’ve put 40, 50 hours of my work into this company,” she said.
Osigwe Erua also applied.
“The paperwork, the website, everything seems legit,” he said.
But according to the BBB, it wasn’t.
“They’ve dedicated hours of their time to do work that they didn’t end up getting paid for, and it turns out they were supporting a scam,” explained Karla Davis of the Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C.
Knobloch was asked to put together a glossy promotional package about Ottawa to attract exchange students. But she wasn’t paid and the people behind the website seemed more interested in using her to move money.
“They asked me if I would go and pay hotel reservations that were in place and they couldn’t get to pay for and I said, ‘yes,’” she said.
She says the company e-transferred $3,200 into her account and instructed her to go to a go to a Bitcoin machine to deposit it and then share the coded receipt.
A short time later she says her bank flagged the e-transfer to her account as fraud.
“I just laundered their money for them,” Knobloch said.
Erua did the same thing. $2,000 was transferred to him, which he deposited into Bitcoin. He was waiting to transfer more when a CTV News Ottawa reporter caught up to him at the Bitcoin machine.
“I’m just surprised, you know. I’m just surprised,” Erua said.
He called the woman who’d been giving him instructions with CTV News listening in.
“Hi, thank you for calling PY Program Brenda speaking,” said the woman on the phone.
“I’m still hanging tight waiting for the money,” Erua answered.
“I still have no news, I’ve also asked the vendor but still have no information. I guess please go home for now,” she said.
Then our Ottawa reporter Michael O’Byrne spoke up.
"Why are you trying to cheat these people?" he asked.
Her response was unintelligible.
“We know what you do. Do you not think you owe this gentleman an apology?” asked O’Bryne.
She hung up.
CTV News visited the Vancouver office that was listed on the President Youth Program’s website. It took us to a Yaletown building but the company was not located there.
And after being confronted, the President Youth Program website was taken down. And Indeed told CTV News it pulled the job posting for violating standards.
“They were being used, essentially,” said Davis.
The BBB says the RCMP has been notified and says there have been other reports from others victims on the BBB Scam Tracker.
It’s now issued a warning about employment scams.
Be careful about applying for certain job titles.
“Caregiver, mystery shopper, administrative assistant–those are the titles the scammers tend to gravitate towards,” explained Davis.
She says scammers tend to target those looking for jobs that don’t require special training or licensing. You’re advised to watch out for unsolicited employment emails, being asked to use your personal accounts, or requests to purchase Bitcoin or cryptocurrency.
“Well I feel like next time I should listen to my instincts. That’s it,” said Erua.
“Now I look like the criminal because I’m the one who got the e-transfer,” said Knobloch.
It’s highly unlikely they would be charged with a crime since they were victimized too. However, Knobloch says her e-transfer capabilities have been shut down by her bank until it completes its fraud investigation.