Brad Helding wanted some extra work so he posted his resume on some job sites and soon got an email from a company calling itself Delta Express Couriers. The job? An offer to work from home as a "purchase clerk," buying electronics in large quantities, then shipping them to the company's clients, mostly overseas.
The company told him since Montana has no sales tax, they'd save money running the purchases through him. The job paid over $72,000 per year, plus bonuses.
"I would be shopping locally or online for phones, computer parts, laptops," he said. "It certainly sounded very appealing to me at the time."
And Helding said he did his research, checking the company's website and Sacramento location. So he filled out tax and employment forms, and when an "offer letter" arrived, he signed it.
The company then sent him $2,000 so he bought iPhones at a Best Buy and shipped them off as instructed. He says for the next batch of purchases, the company told him to temporarily use his own credit card but provided bank account and routing numbers he could use to reimburse himself for those expenses. It worked until he called his card company a few weeks later.
"She says, 'I need to tell you that this account is stolen and you are not authorized to make payments from that account,'" Helding said.
When he called the company, he only got this automated message: "Thank you for calling Delta Express Couriers. Please leave us a message with your name and telephone number and we will return your call within normal business hours."
It turned out, all the transactions were fraudulent including that original $2,000 "payment." Now, Helding is out what he paid for the electronics: more than $35,000.
He's one of thousands of Americans who fall for employment scams. Employment fraud tops the list of the riskiest scams targeting consumers in 2018, according to a new report by the Better Business Bureau which says job scams made up just over nine percent of the total. The BBB doesn't just look at how often a scam happens. They now look at how susceptible you might be to a particular scam, and how much you could lose.
"Scammers definitely use at-home opportunities, because they know a lot of people are looking for that opportunities," said the Better Business Bureau's Melissa Trumpower.
Adam Levin's company CyberScout has been looking into Helding's case, which he says shows indications of criminal syndicates.
"I don't believe we know who did it right now, no," Levin said. "Because they're laundering money … they have to find a way to launder money, so they come up with different scams in order to do it effectively because they've got to end the trail."
Meaning – they get Helding to buy $30,000 worth of electronics and then they sell the electronics. Now they've got clean money – money that Helding now owes.
"I'm not a stupid person," he said. "I mean I've got an education, I've been around the world and I said 'My God, what have I done? 'What have I fallen for?"
CBS News found the real Delta Express Couriers went out of business several years back.
Work-at-home job scams are extremely common and the BBB warns you should be very, very careful about them – especially if the company contacts you, as they did in Helding's case.