SALISBURY — Since losing her job at Anna Jaques Hospital more than seven months ago, longtime Salisbury resident Annabel Andriotakis has been scouring the region for a full-time job.
But for the 21-year-old Andriotakis, the search has been a long and thoroughly frustrating ordeal. It's an ordeal shared by millions of people across the country, many of whom are running out of unemployment benefits and struggling to survive the aftermath of one of the worst economic periods in this country's history.
A few weeks ago, Andriotakis thought she might finally have found her salvation after stumbling upon not one, but perhaps two jobs that would fit her schedule on Craigslist, the popular online bulletin board site.
"I was so excited about finally finding jobs that fit what I wanted," Andriotakis said.
But after a few e-mail exchanges, Andriotakis came to the conclusion the jobs were bogus and she was the target of elaborate and seductively sinister scams.
"It's so, so frustrating and hard when you see these opportunities that look so good to you," Andriotakis said. "It's very hard."
One of the sham jobs came from a man claiming to be from a wristwatch distribution company based in Switzerland in need of an office assistant/receptionist and a personal assistant to handle online payments. The job offered the luxury of working three to four hours a day from home, and $2,000 per month plus 10 percent commission from every payment received and forwarded. The payments, according to the scammer, would be from clients purchasing watches online. She was to cash the checks she received and wire the money to the scammer.
Andriotakis said she grew suspicious and told the company she was no longer interested. But the company sent her two checks regardless. Andriotakis said she took the checks to a local bank who then told her the checks were fake. Had she cashed them, she said, she could have been caught in serious legal and financial trouble.
"I knew that wasn't right," Andriotakis said.
The second "job offer" came from someone under the guise of a retired lawyer/mother named Erica Broner. The scammer offered her a job as a part-time office assistant to help her manage her affairs as she travels to meet with companies across the country.
This scammer asked Andriotakis to purchase office supplies with a check that would be sent to Andriotakis and then ship the items to the person claiming to be Erica Broner. When Andriotakis expressed her concerns to Broner, the scammer became incensed saying she was a "God fearing woman and a Christian."
She didn't fall for either scam.
"I was so worried that other people would see these scams, I just didn't want someone else to go through and get crushed," Andriotakis said. "I didn't fall for it, but someone else could."
Salisbury police Detective Steven Sforza said both scams appear to be what he called vehicle or large-purpose scams. The way a large-purpose scam works, is the scammer will send the victim a fake cashiers check or money order for more than the price that an item costs, he said. The scammer will then ask the victim to wire them a money order for the difference.
"That's what a lot of Craigslist scams are," Sforza said.
Considering how many scammers are out there looking to rip you off, Sforza offered one important piece of advice: don't accept any job opportunities over the Internet, especially Craigslist.
"Unless this person is local and you meet them face-to-face," Sforza said.
On its website, Craigslist details several different types of scams and gives users a list of potential red flags. The first one is to deal with people locally and in person. By following that rule, you can avoid 99 percent of scam attempts, the website says.
Another red flag is an email message filled with spelling mistakes and poor grammar. In the case of the scammer pretending to be Erica Broner, there were many spelling mistakes and poor grammar in many of her emails.
Unfortunately, with job opportunities seemingly impossible to find, the possibility of a job is hard to resist, Sforza said.
"You can't stress that enough: These are times when people are desperate," Sforza said. "And they're willing to do anything."
Luckily for Andriotakis, she was able to find herself a part-time job over the summer at Salisbury Discount House. It's enough to keep her going for a few months. But she knows it's only a temporary work-around. Her fiancé©, James Ketchen, has been out of work for eight months. And it's been the lack of jobs that have kept the longtime couple from finally tying the knot, she said, adding they've decided to not even think about a wedding until they both have full-time jobs.
"I just want my wedding to be what I want it to be," Andriotakis said.