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Silicon Valley startup scams employees with fake pay receipts



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A former employee took to Medium to share how she was scammed by her boss at a start-up.

Marketer Penny Kim was offered a job at the company in July for US$135,000 a year plus equity and a US$10,000 signing bonus for relocation expenses to cover her move from Dallas.

One month on the job, she started to feel things are not right and she posted an article titled “I Got Scammed By A Silicon Valley Startup.” on Medium to share her horrible experience. She said the company had failed to pay her and engaged in other unprofessional practices.

Kim wrote: “Thursday, August 4th was D-Day … That afternoon in the office, Michael (the CEO) emailed each employee a personalised PDF receipt of a Wells Fargo wire transfer with the message: ‘Here is the receipt. It has been calculated for the taxes on your semi-monthly salary and signing bonus. The money is arriving either today or tomorrow. I am sorry about the delay.”

But since the company was already a month behind in pay, employees grew suspicious and an intern quickly discovered that the receipts were fake.

The scammer pulled out an image of a wire transfer receipt from a Google search and photoshopped it for each of the 17 employees to make it look as if it came from a lawyer and was wages were going into their accounts.

But the person who tried to pull off the trick forgot to change the details on the image, like the date on the bottom of the form, which said 2014.

She did not mention the name of the computer but with the collective effort from people on the internet, the company was identified as Santa Clara-based WrkRiot.

Business Insider confirmed the name of the company after speaking to Al Brown, former CTO and one of the founders of the startup, which was called 1for.one and JobSonic and recently renamed itself WrkRiot.

Brown confirmed that the CEO of the company whose LinkedIn profile identifies as Isaac Choi is the person who Kim referred to as Michael in her post.  He also confirmed Kim’s account of how Choi tried to trick employees to believe that they have been paid with fake receipts.

Instead of apologising to and paying employees their wages, the CEO responded on Facebook, threatening legal action against Kim after she posted her article.

“WrkRiot is considering legal action against a disgruntled former employee who has launched a slanderous campaign against WrkRiot and some of its employees via social media,” the post begins and went on to accuse Kim of attempting to extort $50,000 from the company.

But the attempt by Choi to play innocent withered in no time.  Inc.com reported shortly after posting this response, the company deleted the post and the entire Facebook page, as well as its website.  Choi, who’s listed as CEO of the startup have also have deleted his LinkedIn account.

The deleted Facebook post by Choi is available on twitter.

Photo/ 123RF



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