KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — A suburban Grand Rapids woman looking for work online found herself set up to be a dupe for international scammers.
In just one day, Rebecca, who asked to be identified only by her first name, applied for about 200 jobs online.
“Within a couple of days, this ‘Breshears’ called me (and) hired me,” she told Target 8 investigators.
The company calling itself Breshears Consulting LLC sent her a contract and “made it sound so good,” she said.
“(It was) going to pay me $500 a week to do quality control, what they referred to as,” she said.
Her job was to receive packages, open them up, check the goods, repackage them and ship them to another location using mailing labels the company would send her.
She was curious, so she started researching the job online. She quickly found out that she had been targeted by a scam. She called police.
The real purpose of her work was to help crooks cover their tracks as they used stolen credit information to order goods from unsuspecting sellers.
“People think they are actually doing a legitimate job, but what is actually happening is the scammers are making purchases through credit card fraud,” Kent County Metropolitan Fraud & Identity Theft Team Detective Mason Klein said.
Klein said the scammers make it look legitimate by having people fill out the kind of paperwork they might expect from a new job, like the contract they sent Rebecca.
By the time she figured out what was going on, she had already received three parcels. She sent them back rather than to the addresses provided by the crooks. She emailed her so-called boss and told her what she could do with her so-called job. The boss, who identified herself as Anna Brown, tried to scare Rebecca into staying with the program:
“Why don’t you send packages?” she demanded in an email. “If you don’t send them in nearest time I will have to send your documents to the Department of Safety. If you won’t send the packages, you steal them. You will have problems with the law.”
The police told Rebecca not to worry about that threat. Still, the experience rattled her.
“I’m still being threatened by criminals on that end,” she said. “I feel threatened because of this stolen property.”
She called Target 8 investigators because she wanted other people to know how to avoid such con jobs, often called repackaging or reshipping scams.
One of the packages she tried to return to the source ended up coming back to her, which gave Target 8 investigators a chance to dig deeper. The package came from a New York wedding gift supplier called Zola and contained a silver set. Zola said it checked and found out that the order was, indeed, a fraud “made to look quite convincing” — so much so that it beat the company’s fraud safeguards.
The label the scammers sent Rebecca seemed to be directing the package to somewhere in the Ukraine, but the label said it was going to “Italy.”
“So many times, you will see Italy, you’ll see Russia, you’ll see small third-world countries in Africa,” Detective Klein said.
Target 8 investigators asked postal workers to scan the bar code and found the real destination was somewhere in Latvia.
The package came back to Rebecca when U.S. Customs flagged it in Chicago because the label was “digitally manipulated.” She was eventually able to get the package back to Zola.
Experts say most of the reshipping scammers are based overseas because that’s where most of the stolen goods end up. That makes it difficult for local police and even postal investigators to do much to catch the crooks.
Still, Klein said Rebecca did the right thing in calling police because they can help get stolen property back where it belongs. Calling authorities also keeps the unwitting accomplices out of criminal trouble.
Prosecutors say people who get involved without knowing they are part of a scam generally don’t face any criminal charges.