Alert! CraigsList Univision Imposters Target NYC Graphic Designers

When you’re a freelancer, as I have heard from the ones who came before me; applying to jobs is a natural muscle one must flex only a few times a month. It’s simply a way of sharpening your ability to dig up your resume and send over, for fun if anything at all.

Here is a rundown of how this scam works to save you time.

  • You are contacted in regards to a job opening which does not exist
  • You are told that you are working from home
  • You are put through an interview process which is fake
  • You are asked to ‘build’ a home office with fake company funds
  • You are asked to deposit a fraudulent check
  • You are asked to purchase office equipment for the fake job using said check

Leaving you in a legal issue, while ‘cleaning’ their fraudulent money for the scammers. Below is a detailed recalling of events, including real messages and email addresses from the scammers performing this con.

So there I stood in front of my CPU repeating to myself my own mantra “Nothing good comes from CraigsList,” I eased my own paranoia for a moment, “It’ll be alright,” I replied back to a post titled in “Experienced Graphic Designer Needed Work from Home” awesome.

The real Margaret Lazo from Univision being impersonated by these scammers.

Two days pass and on (Wednesday, July 26, 2017, 5:20 PM) I get an email message from a ‘Ryan Wallace’ asking when I would be available for an interview. I say later on in the week, he asks a certain time and that it will be conducted through Google Hangouts. I agree and receive a message from a Margaret Lazo.

This is where it gets scammy!

Margaret Lazo is the head of PR at Univision which is a Spanish television company. When I did my research, her LinkedIn appeared and everything checked out. Yet in hindsight these are some red flags to look out for:

  • A reputable company would never hire through Google Hangouts
  • Why would a PR head of a large corporation be holding interviews?
  • Typos, typos, typos
  • Errors in rates from conversation and contract
  • Discussing checks or payment before work done
  • Talk of setting up office or home office without having worked at a company for many years
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is

A day passes after the introduction when I receive a Google Hangout message saying that today the interviewing process will be conducted and that I would asked various questions. These questions were thorough and takes your mind off the red flags to continue luring you into the scam. Here is the actual conversation below:

Scammer: Hello
Scammer: How are you today

Me: Hello, I’m great how are you?
Me: Hope you are enjoying your day I recently received an email from Ryan Wallace in regards to scheduling an interview

Scammer: Yes
Scammer: Are you ready for your interview

Me: Yes that sounds great, I would just need a moment to set up my webcam if that is alright

Scammer: You don’t need a webcam
Scammer: It’s a chat interview
Scammer: Before we proceed can you confirm your name, location, and cell number

Me: Oh absolutely, my name is Sammir Belkhyat, my location (I gave my info) and my cell phone number (555) 555-5555
Scammer: Great

Scammer: I’m here to brief and interview you more about the opening position Just follow the briefing and you can ask questions when I am through.

Scammer: Let me know when you have finished reading and understanding every line! You will be allowed to ask questions later. With each line just respond with an Okay.

Me: Okay

I receive an email with some sort of disclosure letter.

Me: I have read what you sent and understand, after every line, I will respond with an okay

Scammer: Ok good
Univision Communications Inc. are recruiting via online potential employees who would eventually have an office space at home. Univision Communications is a diversified Spanish-language media company, with interests in television, radio and the internet. The Univision Network is the most-watched Spanish-language television network in the U.S., reaching 97% of Hispanic households. The company issued shares to the public in 1996; in 2007, an investor group including Madison Dearborn Partners and Providence Equity Partners, took the company private again. In July 2015, Univision announced an intention to go public via an IPO.

Me: Okay

Scammer: Here are the questions you are to answer. Note: you are to answer each question by numbering them and be detailed in your answers. All interviews are therefore reviewed by our hiring board.

1. Are you currently employed? and will you be able to devote 10 to 20 hours of your time weekly to our company?
2. Do you have a Printer, Fax Machine, Scanner?
3. What do you understand by the word”Privacy and code of conduct?
4. Tell me about yourself and your last/current job/class?
5. Can you embrace challenge and complexity with a sense of adventure and enthusiasm?
6. How long would you expect to work for us if hired?
7. What type of software have you worked with?
8. How much will you request per hour if you are hired?

Me: (My response the questions just sent at the time)
1. I have been working as a freelance Creative Director for many years. I will be able to devote 10 to 20 hours of my time weekly to the company.
2. I do have a printer, fax, and scanner readily available.

Scammer: Beautiful

Me: 3. What I understand of the word “Privacy and code of conduct” is that the company requires ethical business practices and appreciates confidentiality

Scammer: Great

Me: 4. I am a hard-working, deadline oriented, ethical creative professional from the New York City area originally. My last position was as Interactive Designer working closely with developers and marketers to create innovative digital solutions like mobile applications, websites, and other large print materials.

Scammer: Very good

Me: 5. As a designer challenge and complexity is all a part of the thought process in design. My sense of adventure and enthusiasm can be seen in my work, as well as in the way I work well within a team.
6. If hired I would work for as long as possible, building reliable relationships with companies is something very important to me as a designer.

Scammer: Excellent

Me: 7. I have worked with Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop and Illustrator. Video editing software like Premier, 3D mapping software like SketchUp and I am proficient with multiple operating systems. Dreamweaver for CSS, HTML as well as programs like MS Word and Excel.
8. I am open in regards to the hourly pay

Scammer: Oh this is wonderful

Scammer: DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITY: The Graphic Designer will design graphics and collaborate with the Marketing Department to produce professional marketing materials including photos, catalogs, flyers and social media. The Graphic Designer will work with the Marketing Department to create and execute a plan that will effectively project the image of the company and achieve strategic goals.
Scammer: DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITY: Creating visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. Develop the overall layout and production design for advertisements, for content marketing,brochures, magazines, and corporate reports. This could be designsfor social media campaigns, blog posts or in app content.
Scammer: Can you handle All of these duties effectively?
Scammer: Can you also performing a variety of other office tasks like invoicing recording,recording pay slips into accounting database all these will be done through the use of the Accounting Software, such as faxing or emailing confidently and positive attitude Online from home office .
Scammer: This include extra pay

Me: One of my strengths is organization and an ability to learn new programs. I can handle all these duties effectively.

Scammer: Anyway, you will be undergoing training before you start working fully if you are hired at the end of this briefing.
Scammer: This is going to be strictly an online and work from home job the working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anytime of your choice,the pay is $25.5per hour and training is $10 per hour and will be getting payment bi weekly via check or direct deposit (Depending on which you prefer)

Me: Okay

Scammer: Stand by while i forward your interview answers to the hiring board.

Me: Okay thank you

Scammer: You’re welcome

A day passes (Thursday, July 27, 2017 11:13 AM) when another Google Message from the ‘Scammer’ appears using the same name Margaret Lazo.

Scammer: Hello Abel
Scammer: Bro
Scammer: Sorry for the typographical error
Scammer: Hello Bel Sam

I reply back (Thursday, July 27, 2017 4:17 PM)

Me: Hello Mrs Lazo

Scammer: How are you

Me: I’m doing great how is everything?

Scammer: Very fine
Scammer: Okay, I will not Congratulate you yet, But Due to your level of experience and your working skills, the company has decided to hire you as one of our staff

Me: That’s great news!

Scammer: You will receive your duties everyday via email and i will be online to assist you with any difficulties and you will be undergoing 3 to 5 days training immediately after setting up your mini office.We are starting you with $20.5 per hour,You will receive your pay bi weekly Friday of the week via Direct deposit or check,Depending on which you prefer.

Benefits Include: Stay fueled, energized and healthy with Coffee during work hour, Tea, Fruits, Snacks, and Dental benefits.

You will be enrolled for other benefits after a period of 3 months of working with us.

We are going to be communicating through Hangout till after 7 days of working with us, a user and password will be given to you including an up link to the company server and a list of contact phone numbers to various departments will be sent to you including all necessary forms to fill out.

Me: Ok not a problem

Scammer: Enumerated are the list of the office supplies and tools to setup your mini Office and time tracker to calculate your daily hours to be purchased before you can start the job fully.

Complete range of office supplies and equipment to set up your home office *Apple MacBook Pro Laptop *All-in one Printer *Card Filing Systems *File Folders*Graphics generator and software*Digital Storage *Inks and Ribbons *Surge Protectors and Automated Time Tracker

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch Touch Bar Core i7 2.9GHz, 16GB, 512GB*Wacom Cintiq 22HD Pen Display*All in One Printer *Card Filing Systems *Adobe Creative Cloud *Wacom EODIS3-DCWA Color Manager *Surge Protectors and Automated Time Tracker
Complete softwares programs time tracker to calculate your daily duties

You will receive a payment(Check) This payment (check)will be use to set up your mini office by purchasing the office equipment and software so that you can start your training immediately

NOTE: All materials are to be purchased from the company accredited vendor,I will provide you with the vendor information when you receive the check.

The reason we are issuing you a check is for confirmation of address and also the equipments receipt will be issued in your name, the company policy stated that after you must have worked diligently for the company for 12-16 weeks you automatically becomes the rightful owner of the equipments.

Me: Ok understood
Scammer: Ok good
Scammer: Does your bank allows you to deposit using ATM or mobile deposit?

Me: Yes it does

Scammer: Which of the two have you tried before ?

Me: I’ve tried the ATM deposit before

Scammer: Do you have the mobile app on your phone ?
And what bank do you operate with ?

Me: It is (Name of bank) they use (name of bank) atm’s

Scammer: Ok good
Scammer: So if you are issued a check immediately will you be able to make the deposit?

Me: Yes I will

Scammer: Alright
Scammer: Should the company issue the check in your name and you will be sincere and honest handling company’s fund

Me:Yes I will

Scammer: And you will act accordingly when you receive Check

Me: Yes I will

Scammer: Is this a promise?
You are to forward the following information to enable the secretary to register you, Your full name, home address, home, and cell Phone number and your e mail address. Email the requested information

At this point I receive an email from an email address: with a PDF attached describe the fake salary contract and detailed job description. The document itself had the Univision logo on the front page, I am then instructed to sign and scan the fake salary contract, then send a copy of my ID, which I do so foolishly. I notice the written amount of the hourly rate is different from what was discussed in the message but think nothing of it as it a higher rate.

The Google Hangout conversation between the scammer pretending to be Margaret Lazo head of PR from Univision continues.

Me: Absolutely it is a promise my career is very important to me

Scammer: Do this immediately and I will forward your details to the company’s account department
Scammer: And your check will be issued
Scammer: The check will be emailed to you and you are to print out front and back of the check and take to the ATM for deposit

Me: I am sending the email with my info right now

Scammer: Don’t forget you Should cut out to check the size before depositing
Scammer: Ok that’s great

Me: Would you like me to CC this email, Mrs. Lazo?

Scammer: You will have to send a copy to me on here
Not in the email Bel

I send over my information once again.

Scammer: Ok good
Scammer: Go far away is your bank from your home?

Me: It is nearby

Scammer: Remember how smart and diligently you handle this task adds to your points and credits in terms of salary increase and promotions

Me: Understood

Scammer: Ok good
Scammer: Check your email for your employment letter fill and send back asap

Scammer: Just received the email

Me: Would you prefer physical mail or a scan of my ID with the signed form

Scammer: You are to scan and send with your ID to the same email

Me: Ok understood

Scammer: So that quickly your check is ready

Me: Absolutely currently printing now

Scammer: Ok good
Scammer: Still on it?

Me: Yes I’m creating a PDF with the scans and sending shortly

Scammer: Excellent

Me: I have just sent over the Employment Offer Letter and a copy of my ID as a PDF

Me: Alright that’s good
Are you ready for your check? Your check was sent to your email please check immediately

After this I get a phone call from a number in Pennsylvania, I remember asked hello multiple times before a women asks me if I received the check. The woman voice seemed timid, as if not to say too much. I begin to realize what is happening, yet I respond back.

Me: I have received it thank you for the call

Scammer: Now proceed to deposit

Me: Understood I will deposit it now

Scammer: Don’t forget you are to deposit using the ATM as this is the easiest way to approval.

Me: Okay understood I will message to confirm

Scammer: Don’t forget you Should cut out to check the size before depositing
Scammer: Good luck !!!

Me: Thank you, Mrs Lazo,

Scammer: You’re welcome

The check that was sent, as an image said it came from Bank of America. I instantly get on the phone with them to ask about the check’s authenticity, the woman on the phone yells out, “Do not cash that check!” explaining that she had just gotten a similar call with the same chain of events. Now in mind, I am certain this a scam which almost, got me. I then ignore the messages for a while when I receive another phone call from the same number. It is the woman who called earlier trying to tell me she is leaving her ‘office’. I then ask skeptically, “Univision never closes, offices usually open all night long.” She stays silent, I say I’ll get back to her and that I will not be able to make it to the bank. An hour or two later, another phone call saying if I had issues, I explain that it will take me days before I will be able to make it to any bank. My last message of communication after those calls took place was this, at (Friday, July 28, 2017, 7:10 AM):

Me: Hello, unfortunately, I will not be taking the position please void the check thank you

So to summarize the scam it was a classic check fraud trap. You print out this check from the company they are impersonating to deposit in your bank account (bringing you into legal trouble), you in turn ‘take out the money’ to purchase office supplies for the job that never existed. Essentially ‘cleaning’ the committing fraud and paying them in the process. Luckily my paranoia, although later, did save me from this massive scam but other, especially newer Graphic Designers would likely fall for this scheme, as it plays off the reality of job rejection that all designers go through regularly.

I hope this helps or warns at least one person about the pitfalls of this scam and prevents someone from falling victim to these scammers.

Sam BelAlert! CraigsList Univision Imposters Target NYC Graphic Designers