Scam targeting job seeker costs woman thousands
BATON ROUGE - There's another scam to be aware of, this one targeting job hunters. A woman in Baton Rouge says she was victim to this and is out about $2,500 after depositing a check that turned out to be fraudulent.
Sheena Daniels doesn't want anyone else to go through what she did.
"It just ended up being what I didn't respect," she said.
A couple weeks ago, Daniels went looking online for a job searching Craigslist and ZipRecruiter. She responded to an ad for an administrative assistant position that was emailed to her inbox on Sept. 14.
"Supposedly this new job coming to Baton Rouge," said Daniels.
The email came from a Jan Kaupp, claiming to be the Director of Human Resources from the company Plant Essentials, Inc. based out of Pennsylvania. The email copied word for word from the website. It went on to give a job description of a "bright and quick learner," with job duties including "assistance in run errand, phone calls, check voicemail, filling letters, paying bills, organizing the office," and paying $20 an hour.
It seemed legitimate to Daniels, who took the job. She communicated solely with Kaupp, who she describes as "a man with a foreign voice." After three days of clerical work, Daniels was mailed a check for $2,475.10. The address on the check read Zeldes, Needle & Cooper, which is a law firm in Bridgeport, CT.
In an email from Kaupp, Daniels was told to deposit the check and wait for further instructions. She did this and the next day was told to send a Money Gram to another address for $2,000 to the man in charge of construction work. She did this, too.
Soon after, her bank alerted her to fraudulent activity. There was no money and Daniels spent money she didn't have, over-drawing her account.
Looking back, Daniels says the signs were all there. Misspellings in emails and various company names on checks.
Plant Essentials, Inc is a real company in Pennsylvania. Vice President Mark Furry says he's had about a dozen phone calls from victims of this scam, primarily from the Baton Rouge area. He's also received a call from Florida.
To Furry's understanding, someone took out the domain name, plantessentials.net and set up a false company. The scammer could have gone to a job site and taken information of those searching for administrative assistant positions in the area and sent out an email blast.
Furry tells 2 On Your Side, the email Daniels received is similar to his company's emails but differ from the .org that were sent out. He says Kaupp is a real employee at Plant Essentials, Inc. While Daniels was speaking to a male, the Jan Kaupp who works at the real company is a woman.
Furry says he's reported this scam to the FBI and ZipRecruiter and he's monitoring for other activity.
"Don't answer the ad," said Furry.
Managing Partner Leslie Aceto with Zeldes, Needle & Cooper says the firm has been getting phone calls about this scam since the beginning of August. Aceto says the firm immediately notified the bank and contacted the FBI. They've received about two dozen phone calls from Texas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. It's since closed the account connected to the fraudulent checks and are monitoring the situation.
Daniels received a second check in the mail for $2,475.42. She took this check to the bank, which told her it was also fraudulent. The address on this check read Integris Projects, LLC in Friendswood, TX. Tuesday afternoon, WBRZ contacted this company but did not hear back.
She's also reported the scam to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office.