South Florida woman out $9K after COVID work scam

(WSVN) - With millions of people out of work because of the pandemic, scammers are moving in and preying on the desperate. For one South Florida woman, what appeared to be a dream job and ended with her bank account being wiped out. 7’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.

Jennifer Willis is applying for as many jobs as she can.

Jennifer Willis: “Stressful, very stressful. I don’t like sitting at home not doing anything.”

Before the pandemic, the 24-year-old loved working at the AmericanAirlines Arena and a clothing store, but she was furloughed from both.

To find a new job, she started searching openings posted on Indeed.com.

Kevin Ozebek: “What did you do? What was your thinking, and what did you want to find a job doing?”

Jennifer Willis: “I wanted to do a work-from-home position because of the current state that we’re in right now.”

After searching “data entry,” she saw a posting from what appeared to be the National Healthcare Corporation, a Tennessee company that provides senior care.

Jennifer applied and heard back.

Jennifer Willis: “We did the whole interview online. I filled out paperwork with their [human resources department] that same day.”

She was told she got the job and would earn $21 an hour.

Jennifer Willis: “I was so excited. I told my mom, I was going around telling everyone, ‘I got this nice job.'”

Through a text, she was told she would need a laundry list of software and a MacBook Air, but she would receive money to buy everything from “the Company’s certified Vendor to make the purchase.”

Jennifer was quickly sent two checks, one for $4,600 and another for $4,800. She deposited them in her personal account.

Jennifer Willis: “The money cleared, so I didn’t think anything was wrong with that.”

Jennifer followed all instructions she was texted. She sent the money from her account to people she thought were vendors via PayPal’s cash app. She even FedExed a money order to an address in Gresham, Oregon.

But the equipment never came. Those two checks bounced, and Jennifer was roughly out $9,000.

Jennifer Willis: “I couldn’t breathe. I was — I’m sorry.”

The real National Healthcare corporation tells 7 Investigates, “This is a scam, and these individuals are not employees of NHC.”

Jennifer is not the only victim. There’s a warning on NHC’s website to “beware of fraudulent recruiters.”

Cinthya Lavin, Better Business Bureau: “If the company is sending you checks to cash beforehand before you do any amount of work, just to say that you can buy supplies, that’s a big red flag.”

Cinthya Lavin with the Better Business Bureau says, if you see a job posting on a site like Indeed.com, make sure it’s on the actual company’s website as well.

A lesson Jennifer learned the hard way.

Jennifer Willis: “You want to double check and triple check and then check some more.”

The Better Business Bureau says nearly a third of the employment scam complaints it gets stem from a post on Indeed.com. We have reached out to the website to ask what it is doing to weed out fraudulent posts but have received no response.

CONTACT 7INVESTIGATES:
305-627-CLUE
954-921-CLUE
clue@wsvn.com

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