News / Ottawa

Writing job scam or 'misguided' employer?

Zachary Houle thought the editing job was too good to be true.

Only 90 minutes after applying for a content editor job with Fact News 24 posted to indeed.ca, he had nailed it without an interview. They sent him a job application that same day, on June 23, asking for details including his Ottawa address and date of birth. After he filled it out, they asked for bank account details. Houle stopped there.

“I consider myself pretty savvy,” he said. “I’ve seen phishing scams directed at me before and I recognize them. But this one, I fell for it hook, line and sinker.”

The 38-year-old is a freelancer who juggles government and writing contracts. His last contract ended in May and he has wanted to land a full-time job for “many, many years.”

“It seemed real and legit,” Houle said, adding that the employer even called his house. “It looked like there was nothing in the application process I was going through that looked like it was fake.”

Factnews24.net looks like a real news site filled with international news tidbits – except that it has not been updated in three weeks.

The main manager is a man named Erik Klepton. A Google search of "Erik Klepton factnews24" reveals one Fact News 24 job posting and four websites linking to Eric Clapton.

Klepton said Factnews24.net sends content editors news articles for editing. The salary would be a whopping $3,000 a month for about one to four hours of work a day. Klepton said they simply choose to send money via direct deposit – and not cheques or with Paypal. When Metro pressed Klepton about the FactNews24.net scam speculation, he said, "I can’t say anything about it because I don’t know. If they have any questions they can come to our office."

Klepton told Metro the main office is based out of Ukraine, with offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City.

But Factnews24.net was registered to an address in Panama in April.

Klepton said he had to go, but would call back. He didn't.

“Of course, we don’t know for sure that it’s a scam,” said Andrew Burt, of the writing scam watchdog Preditors & Editors. “It could be someone who is simply misguided.”

Alexandra Owens, executive director of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, said there are many legitimate organizations that choose to send cash via direct deposit. However, she had never heard of this news site. Neither had representatives from the Association of European Journalists.

Ottawa police Cst. Chuck Benoit said job hunters should never send an employer bank details online. That information exchange should be done in person.

Metro could not get in touch with indeed.ca, but the posting has been taken down.

Houle said he’s now more wary of job postings online. His bank has also flagged him as an identity theft case, so now he must show photo I.D. every time he interacts with a teller.

“Writers and editors don’t make a lot of money,” Houle said. “So it’s just funny that that’s who he was targeting.”

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