My fraud story: Part One

I have a story to tell, in the hope that not everyone will be as gullible as I was about online fraud. Let this be a lesson to you.

In 2011, after leaving my Environment Canterbury job, I was casting around for ways to make a bit of easy money in a part time gig. I had just left a steady office job of 2 1/4 years that had abruptly ended as a result of the 22 February 2011 earthquake.  One day I was looking around at internet opportunities, not really knowing what I was after, when I saw an advert that promised an easy way to make a bit of cash online doing only a few hours of work a day.

I left my details and within 90 minutes a company called Elite World Systems was on the line. They wanted to set up a training programme for me and asked how much I would be willing to shell out. I was keen, but knew absolutely nothing about what I was getting into. The flash adverts I had not realized were just that, flash adverts with no substance behind them. So we set a date to start work, and agreed to have training once a week on Fridays. I was given access to a so called online back office, where an array of options for my online business awaited. My instructor talked me through them all over two sessions and then asked me if I wanted to go further. Since at that point everything had gone to plan I said yes. They asked for an installment on the programme of $4,000. That seemed okay.  They seemed friendly enough, and were very patient talking down the phone and giving me instructions on what to do with them.

In early June 2011, I received my monthly bank statement. Yes, they had maxed my card out. Yes I had parted ways with $4000 in April and another $3,600 in May, but as they were – at that point – keeping their end of the bargain for training, I decided not to complain. That was until a second look at my credit card bill revealed an unknown charge by a company called Nethostassn (Net Hosting Association)for $39.95. Given that I had not heard of the company, much less authorized the charge, I was alarmed, but not yet ready to panic. I contacted their helpline and they confirmed the charge. I told them that they had no right to charge it, to which a mere shrug of their shoulders was verbalized down the phone.

It was not until Queens Birthday Weekend though that I saw an obvious red flag. Coming home after a night out, on a day when Elite World Systems had asked for another several thousand dollars, I thought to myself that if I don’t see any money soon I am going to have a financial crisis. So I did a bit of Googling to see what their online reputation was like – something I wish I had done from the start. It turned out E.W.S., and about three or four other shell companies including Online Hosting Network and Universal Web Consultancy had a bit of questionable history behind them. It also turned out that some complainants had shelled out thousands of dollars just like me. The following day I told Mum and Dad. They were concerned that I was acting prematurely when I said that I was investigating whether or not I should bail.

In late June the training sessions dried up for no apparent reason. I still had not received a cent and although the page views recorder was going up, it was erratic. My site also had yet to be listed in any of the locations they said that I would be able to find it. My concerns that I might have been conned were starting to mount, but there were still other positives happening, such as the second stage of training where I would be introduced as an associate to Amazon trading site was starting to happen. I bit my tongue, despite disagreeing with Mum and Dad in a second conversation.

In mid July things took a serious turn for the worse. One day I was rung by the Tax Association, who were an extremely aggressive bunch, that wanted me to file paperwork to become a Limited Liability Company. To this day I am convinced Elite World Systems passed on my number to them. They wanted me to take out an American credit card, among other things. I was seriously alarmed now and resisted complying, saying I needed a couple days to consider. And when I told Mum and Dad they finally saw what I had been trying to say since June, that there was something seriously wrong with these people. The Tax Association said they would ring back a couple days later. In the interim Metservice had issued the first of two big snow storm warnings, set down for 24-26 July and likely to shut down Christchurch. Life was getting interesting for the wrong reasons. Because of my limited means I was being very careful about what I did with my money and wanted to talk to my bank first, but before then there would be three days of snow.

The day came when the Tax Association rang back. The conversation was brutal. They laughed me off when I said there was a snow storm coming, even though a thunderstorm preceding it was rumbling outside right then. They ignored my concerns and told me I needed to get with the real world. I don’t think they bothered with goodbye’s at the end of it.

Continued Part 2


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