Make-up artist Jonelle Freed knows all about putting on a face, but was blind to the mask a scammer wore when contacting her via text message and email about a job with Elle magazine in New Orleans.
"I'm like, this is the crème de la crème," Freed said. "I've done something right in my career."
As it turns out, Freed was being targeted for an impostor scam. The scammer, pretending to be the beauty director for Elle magazine, used the name and information spoofing the email address in a three-week ruse to get money from Freed.
So how was Freed targeted? The Federal Trade Commission says impostor scammers tailor their scams to fit individuals, and they do so by monitoring the social media accounts of their victims which may disclose their profession or interests.
"It's very easy to spoof emails, there have been a lot of hacks," said Christina Tuscan, an attorney with the FTC. "It's easy to pretend to be a person you're not."
The FTC says that impostor scams now rank second on their list of complaints nationally behind debt collection scams and ahead of identity theft.
Freed was so excited about the potential job, she ignored some obvious signs. She never actually talked to anyone, only messaged through texts and emails. Freed also cashed a check she thought had been sent to her to cover expenses for travel and fees associated with the job. It wasn't until the scammer started asking for some of that money to be deposited in a separate account that Freed knew she'd been had.
"I was inconsolable," Freed said.
She was $2,450 poorer. That was the amount she was asked to deposit in a separate account.
It's a painful and expensive lesson to learn. Freed says it's changed her, causing her to now question everything, even perhaps at the expense of losing future work.
According to the FTC, impostor scams can be both individuals and organized crime. But once the money is gone, if you haven't alerted your bank to the activity within 48 hours, it is usually impossible to get your money back.