An email notification informed Megan DeJong, a junior from Colorado majoring in psychology, she was being offered extra money to walk dogs. To give service and earn money, DeJong said she fell victim to a scam costing her $4,850 and didn't receive any help from her bank.
“I was angry at him [the scammer] for lying and making all the stuff up … I was angry at the bank for approving the check … It just made me feel so stupid. I just had this hope that people aren’t doing that [scamming others]. I felt really naive.”
The scam came from a mass email sent to all university departments asking for someone to work as a dog walker for the sender’s uncle, who would be moving to Hawaii from France. When DeJong saw the email, she said she jumped at the opportunity to be of service and also make some extra money.
She said she had been in contact with the individual for several weeks, through email and telephone calls, when he asked her if she could deposit a check for him. The check was supposed to be for his rent and the first payment of dog walking, explained DeJong.
She received a check in the mail for $4,850 and was instructed to send $4,500 of it to the individual’s landlord and keep the rest for dog walking. After the check cleared her bank, and the funds were added to her account, she transferred the money to what she thought was the landlord.
Within a few days, DeJong said, “The bank said it was a fake check, and the money was taken out of my account.”
One of DeJong’s work managers, Janey Grover, said she was shocked when DeJong told her what had happened to her. When she was informed of the situation, she wanted to figure out how they could support DeJong, and if there was a way to recover the lost money.
When they presented their case to DeJong’s bank, Chase, Grover said the bank told them there was nothing they could do. DeJong said the bank would not take any claims and informed her she would not be able to get any money back. DeJong said she was frustrated because if Chase had not told her the funds were available, she would not have transferred the money.
“I was disappointed that an institution we trust with our money didn’t have the support or security I would expect,” said Grover.
As she processed what happened, DeJong said, “I [tried] so hard to have an eternal perspective.” She said she tried to look at it from the scammer’s perspective and wondered if they needed the money more than her.
One of DeJong’s friends, Mariana Goulding, who works for BYU–Hawaii’s Human Resources and graduated in June 2019, said, “I just had a sinking feeling when I heard … I was scared for her because if that would’ve happened to me, I would be freaking out so much more than she was.”
Goulding said although it has been a hard time for DeJong, she has remained hopeful and is “just trying to see the positive outcome in it.”
DeJong shared, “I’m still able to afford the things that I need to, and [Heavenly Father will] provide other opportunities. It could be a lot worse.”
DeJong said she still wants to help people when they ask for it. She said this has been a lesson for her to know in what ways she can help people and in what ways she cannot help them.
“It’s not always you get to work with someone going through something like this, but she’s handled it great,” said Grover.
After talking to police, Grover said she found out scammers target BYUH students. They reported that because of the school’s reputation of service-oriented students, scammers often target students, she said. This often leads students to fall into traps laid by scammers, she explained.
As scams get harder to spot, the level of support from banks and other institutions does not match the increase in sophistication of scams, said Grover.
“Be careful if you see these types of emails … if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Grover. She said it is important to be vigilant and aware of the reality of scams and of people who try and take advantage of others.
For information on how people can protect themselves from identity theft and fraud, read more here: How to spot a scam and protect your bank account