College Student Thought She Landed a Paid Internship. Then Scammers Stole Thousands From Her

The lesson: Be sure to do your homework on any company offering jobs by researching their site, and be cautious of companies demanding you pay for work from home equipment like a laptop with Bitcoin or money orders

NBC Universal, Inc.

A college student in Long Beach who applied to a paid internship via the job-searching site Indeed was told she had landed the job — then scammers stole thousands from her.

"[They said] 'We’re interested in you, you have the qualified skills," Alexandria Smith said.

It was music to her ears. The Cal State Long Beach student landed a paid internship to do social media for Greylock Capital Management LLC.

"I was hoping I could use it to not just help myself but also bring in some income for my mom because I was like, 'Oh I can help her out and ease some of the burden off of her.'

"Then I was hit in the gut," she said.

The position, which Smith had applied for through the job search site, was entirely a ruse.

A scam artist posing as a Greylock employee contacted Smith online telling her she was a candidate, and to download the “Element” messaging app for an online interview.

Randy Mac reports for the NBC4 News.

She said the scammer asked her, "What can you bring to the company?" and "What skill sets do you have?" during the 45-minute chat. Smith shared screenshots with the NBC4 Los Angeles I-Team of the exchange.

Smith was told she was hired, then was asked to fill out an application and was sent three checks.

She said the first two checks were for around $1,900, and the last for $3,200.

Smith says she was instructed to deposit the checks into her account with her school's First Federal Credit Union, then to use Zelle to transfer some of the cash and pay for a laptop and other items she would need for remote working from one of Greylock’s distributors.

Shortly after sending the cash, she said they told her there were problems.

"They were telling me they didn’t get the money, so after that I was told to do Bitcoin, send it through Bitcoin, and I did that," Smith said.

Soon after she checked her account, it had a negative balance. She says her credit union informed her the first two checks were fakes.

They never cashed the largest check — but Smith owed nearly $4,000 and had 45 days to come up with the cash.

The I-Team reached out to Smith’s credit union, and a spokesperson said their investigation determined Smith was a victim of fraud and would be made whole, adding, “financial scams are pretty much across the board in types and ages …consumers need to be vigilant, use good common sense and if it’s too good to be true it probably is.”

Greylock Capital Management, LLC is a real company.

When the I-Team reached out to them a spokesperson says the phony internship ads have been popping up on multiple job search sites. It has happened so often that they’ve posted a warning on their own website that says: “At this time, Greylock Capital is not adding interns for the 2021-2022 academic year…Greylock Capital does not send offer letters via social media apps like Element or Facebook, nor do we use public email services like hotmail, yahoo or gmail.”

Smith’s debt is gone, but she’s still shaken by the lesson learned: that even cash-strapped college students are targets for scammers.

"It’s deplorable. Just going after the innocence or someone’s naivete when they’re trying to better themselves in life," Smith said.

The big takeaway is for anyone applying for a job online, especially since many people are interviewing and working remotely, make sure the job is real. Check the company’s website for a phone number and physical address, and call the company’s human resources department to confirm that the job posting you’ve seen is real.

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