A Florida man is sounding the alarm about work-from-home scams during the coronavirus pandemic after recently falling for a fraudulent re-shipping scheme.
Alan Walker, who lives in Miami Gardens, lost his job as a longshoreman at the Port of Miami at the beginning of the pandemic. The father of two said he spent months looking online for new opportunities and submitted multiple applications until he received a call back for a work-from-home role in December.
"I was very excited and relieved because I was already a couple of months behind on my mortgage," Walker told NBC News. He quickly accepted a "quality control inspector" position at a shipping and logistics company called Shea Post LLC.
Walker said the role required him to receive packages from the company's distributors, replace the outside label on the box, then ship the item to a customer. He received and re-shipped about 19 packages, products ranging from a gold bar to power tools to vacuum cleaners.
"I felt like the job was a good fit for me, and at the same time — with the pandemic — I wouldn't be near anyone, which was a plus for my family's health," Walker said.
However, after working for the company for 30 days, Walker said he became suspicious when he didn't receive his paycheck on time. During the virtual onboarding process, Walker provided his bank information for direct deposits along with pictures of his driver's license and social security card for a background check.
He immediately reached out to the human resources manager at Shea Post LLC, who said a delay in payment was typical for new employees, according to Walker. But, when Walker followed up again on his late paycheck, the human resources manager and his direct supervisor were unresponsive over email and phone.
Soon after, on Jan. 19, Walker received a letter from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Newark, New Jersey, that said he "may be or may have been involved in a work at home scam and the items that you are receiving and/or mailing may contain stolen merchandise." NBC News obtained a copy of the letter addressed to Walker.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"There weren't any red flags with the company until the end, because everything went exactly as they said it would go," said Walker. "But it was fraudulent, and they took advantage of me."
According to the Better Business Bureau, Shea Post LLC is not an accredited business and received an "F" rating. The Better Business Bureau also has an alert on the company stating that the address provided is not its location. The pictures and names on the “About Us” page on the businesses' website are also invalid.
Shea Post LLC did not respond to phone and email requests for comment.
Complaints about businesses and job-related opportunities scams spiked in 2020 as Covid-19 put millions of Americans out of work, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
"This was supposed to be a big step for me, and it turned out to be eight steps backward, and I am still in the same position," said Walker, who called his bank and credit bureaus to avoid identity theft.
Walker remains unemployed and is warning those who are also out of work to do their research before taking up any new opportunities.
"They took my time, effort, and energy, and it was a big slap in the face," he said.