On October 29, an advertisement searching for a personal assistant ran on page five of the Record. That same day, Melia Watkins, a junior, replied to the advertisement via email. On November 5, the advertisement ran again on page six. After exchanging a few emails back and forth, Watkins attempted to deposit her first check she received in the mail, only to find out it was fraudulent.
“I saw this ad that looked pretty legitimate,” said Watkins, “minus the fact that they had horrible grammar and punctuation, which seemed a little fishy. But I thought, why not apply?”
Watkins received a check for $1,980 in the mail to buy materials and it was abnormally large. James, the name used by whoever put out the advertisement, instructed her to use mobile deposit, but Watkins chose to take it to PNC bank instead. After attempting to put it in the ATM unsuccessfully, she went inside to straighten things out.
“After the third person took a look at it, they said it was definitely a fraud,” said Watkins. “After telling them how I got the check, they told me it was probably a scam.”
Had Watkins deposited the check, the person who issued it could have had access to all her accounts.
“I shouldn’t have been surprised,” added Watkins. “One of my friends recently went through a similar experience with a scam.”
Sophomore Austin Weaver is the current business manager for the Record, and handles the selling of advertisements. He received an email about the advertisement on October 19, asking for two weeks of publication.
“Everything seemed normal,” he said. “So I gave him the cost sheet and available dates for publication.”
Grace Weaver, senior Editor in Chief of the Record, handled the rest from there.
“After the first week, we ran it,” said Weaver, “Duane Stoltzfus, professor of communications and advisor to the Record, mentioned that it looked kind of funny. So I asked Austin to get more information from him, such as his last name and the full name of his business.”
But they never received a response in return to their questions.
“I didn’t want to risk not providing him with a service he said he was going to pay for,” said Weaver. “So even though we didn’t get the clarification, I decided to run it again.”
This isn’t an uncommon occurrence. This past week, there was a similar situation with a craigslist ad about a nanny that also turned out to be a scam. Unfortunately, the only way to find out who is really behind the scam would be for a detective to file a subpoena.
Nevertheless, Watkins will be filing an official report with the Goshen Police Department.
“Be careful, ladies and gentleman,” said Watkins. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”