A Harrison Hot Springs woman who lost $3,000 in an elaborate employment scam is sharing her experience in hopes that it will help others avoid falling victim to the same scheme.
“I would really hate for anyone else to go through this,” Bria Fisher said, “especially from here around the Agassiz, Harrison area. Because it’s a small town, it’s not like finding a job is that easy.”
Fisher had been looking for work in mid-February, applying for customer service positions in the Fraser Valley. She said she had been “applying to everything,” including some through Platinum Empire Group where all she had to do was put her name, phone number and email address into a form.
A few days later, she had some interview offers — including one that came in as a text message, asking if she had applied for a customer service position.
The message forwarded her to a messaging app, and connected her with what appeared to be the local meat delivery service, truLOCAL. Through the app, Fisher received a job description for the position, and began a conversation with a man named Istvan Morris.
“I even talked to him on the phone, I did an interview for it, was sent a job agreement, a job description, everything,” Fisher explained. “It was all very, very real.”
Fisher quit her job, signed an agreement and was prepared to start work for truLOCAL on Monday, March 1.
She was told she needed an Apple MacBook Pro, as well as various kinds of software. She was told truLOCAL would send her a $3,000 cheque to pay for the equipment; she would need to purchase a Flexepin voucher and send the code back to her supervisor so they could activate the software.
Flexepin is a prepaid voucher that allows people to make online payments using its 16-digit PIN. The website states to never disclose the PIN, even when dealing with the Flexepin team, as “telling someone the 16-digit PIN or part thereof is the same as handing them cash.”
Fisher was asked to print out images of the cheques, and she put them in her account through a mobile deposit. She purchased the Flexepin voucher and sent the PIN. On the Saturday before she was set to begin working, they sent her an additional $2,000 cheque to deposit.
“For some reason I had just a feeling that I needed to go and look into it to see if there was any reason why the cheques wouldn’t go through,” Fisher said. The bank said it was likely a scam, but she should wait to see if the first cheques bounced.
“I waited and they bounced, so I figured out it was obviously a scam from that.”
Fisher brought her particular case to the Chilliwack RCMP, to see what they could do to help her get her money back and prevent others from falling victim. The RCMP are looking into the scam to see how widespread it is.
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There are several companies with the name Platinum Empire in Canada and the United States, however, the Platinum Empire Group Fisher applied through does not appear to be affiliated with any of them. The website for Platinum Empire Group has no information other than the list of positions available to be filled, and job postings simply say the company “provides its clients with value and unbeatable customer service.”
There are currently 162 positions listed on Indeed through Platinum Empire Group from B.C. to Ontario. Jobs are also listed on Glassdoor, Workopolis and other job sites.
Alicia Adams, HR manager at truLOCAL, said this scam has been an ongoing battle at her company over the last several months.
“Despite notifying Google and filing police reports, we’ve essentially been met with the responses that there isn’t much that can be done,” Adams said in an email. “At this point the most important thing we can do is educate others to be cautious and aware when interacting online.”
Adams said that truLOCAL does occasionally hire Customer Experience Specialists for their team, but those jobs are posted to Indeed directly through their company career page.
She added that the company never cold contacts potential candidates through SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram or email. Candidates are never asked to deposit a cheque or money order of any kind, and candidates are never asked to purchase a gift card or equipment of any kind for the position. If equipment is required, it will be purchased and delivered directly by truLOCAL.
Anyone who is unsure whether they are dealing with truLOCAL for a job application can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm is the communication is legitimate or not.
Other companies, including Ontario’s Badlands Brewing Company, have posted on social media about hiring scams using their company name.
“We are not associated with a ‘Cyrilo Jones’ or ‘Sergio McKenize’ or ‘Istvan Morris,’” the company wrote in a January Facebook post. “If you have received texts from ‘Badlands’, they are a scam.”
Fisher likely won’t be able to get her $3,000 back, and she’s now out of work after quitting her old job to prepare for what she thought was a new position at truLOCAL. But she’s hoping that her experience can help prevent others from finding themselves in the same situation.
“I had never heard of anything like this ever being done before,” she said. “That’s why I wanted to … reach out to say something.”