Callie Heim was thrilled to start her marketing job with Waymo, the buzzy self-driving car company, earlier this summer. She’d had a tough year — her mom recently passed away, she moved back home and she was adjusting to life after college.
The job offer felt like a turning point: “I was at my lowest of lows and felt like I was on the come-up of some good things,” the 22-year-old Towson University grad tells CNBC Make It.
But elation quickly faded when she got a message from her new employer: Before she started, she’d have to buy her own laptop and work phone from a company portal, and they’d send her a check to cover the costs. When the check arrived in the mail, the alarm bells sounded off.
Heim had been scammed by a fake job listing.
‘I went from excited to devastated in a month’
In a series of TikTok videos that have since gone viral, Heim recounts how she applied to the job via LinkedIn’s “Easy Apply” function and went through what felt like a normal, even promising, interview process. First, she answered a few questions about her marketing background through Wire, an encrypted messaging app she was asked to download (a red flag, she now says).
She was invited to a phone interview the next day, where the interviewer said the job would entail getting a computer and phone to do her job remotely. She then got another phone call the day after with an offer (red flag No. 2, Heim says).
After a few more conversations, Heim filled out some employment forms, submitted a scan of her driver’s license and sent over her bank information to get set up for direct deposit. Then she was told she’d need to buy her home equipment upfront and then be reimbursed for it later.
In reality, this is what’s known as a fake check scam, where scammers hope you’ll send them money and “reimburse” you with a bad check. Sometimes they’ll send a check first, tell you to deposit it, and hope you buy your equipment (in reality, send them money) before the check bounces.
Thankfully, Heim realized the scam once the check arrived (“it looked so photoshopped,” she says) and before she actually sent any money to the scammers. But she did have to immediately close her compromised bank account and freeze her credit line.
Heim describes the experience as humiliating and a shot to her confidence. She also felt embarrassed that the news she was so excited for and shared widely with friends and family wasn’t real. “I went from excited to devastated in …….