In the summer of 2013, I went through an eye-opening experience. 

I was a victim of fraud embezzlement. At first, I was extremely embarrassed to share my story with anyone so I kept it to myself and only ever shared it via an anonymous guest post on my friend’s blog a while back. To give you an example of how embarrassed I was, Dan and I have been together for almost a decade and I’ve only told him two years ago, and I’ve never shared this with any of my close friends. 

Now, I want to share my experience and raise awareness of a problem that could happen to anyone, even the “tech-savvies”.

I grew up with computers, so, naturally, I’ve been on the Internet for my entire life. Growing up, my family was extremely keen on anti-virus programs and making sure our computer didn’t get infected.

That importance of an anti-virus follows to me this day as viruses, malware and everything in between are so much more advanced and vicious than ever before. However, no anti-virus can protect people from scams. Simple as that. 

There are tons of documentaries and news segments about online fraud victims – most of which belong to the Baby Boomers and Generation Z. To be honest, I felt that I was smart enough to never get scammed. 

However, in the summer of 2013, after my years of being on the internet, and proclaiming to be ‘tech-savvy’, I fell victimized to online fraud.

How it Started

It all started when I left my job at Best Buy; it got to the point where I wanted to quit so desperately, I didn’t have a job lined up. I figured, my resume was good enough, if not, exceeds the expectations of a retailer. But when the retailers weren’t calling for an interview, I eventually started looking at entry-level business jobs such as an administrative assistant on Craigslist – I didn’t have the skills or degree for it. Still, I figured that I could bullshit my way through.

One of the job ads was for a travel agency looking for an administrative assistant and I applied to it. 2-3 weeks later, they replied saying the “position has been filled” but they were offering another position – financial manager.

Here’s the thing; you’ll think that I would have noticed something fishy when Travel Agency Spectour suddenly offered me a managerial position, let alone, a finance position for which I had zero qualifications.

Or, another sign was that there was no formal interview process or even a building for me to meet the hiring representative. When my then-boyfriend asked where I worked, I lied and gave a bogus street address.

But, when you’re in my position, desperately looking for a job while your credit card bills are rising, you’ll take the job before even thinking twice.

The “hiring” process consisted of this: receiving forms, filling them out, e-mailing them back and confirming that my bank account has e-mail transfer. As a financial manager, my role was to “take the sales from customers and deposit them at Western Union,” where (I assumed) that I was transferring local profits to the main HQ, in Russia.

My wage was $3,200/month, with a 5% commission, paid either by a mailed cheque or bank transfer. I chose the cheque so I also provided them with my home address. 

I was so happy, all I could think about was the money and how easily I could pay off my debts. My dad was super proud of me, telling people that he has a daughter who is a manager at the age of only 19! My friends were all shocked saying, “Wow, a managerial position?!”, even my old supervisor got a bit jealous!

All of that blinded me. No red flags were flying when I agreed with “Anastasia Borodina” about my new job.

All that is what makes me feel so stupid. That I didn’t stop and look twice at the circumstances.

On my “first day” of work, an e-mail transfer came in at 6 AM. I accepted it, went to my bank and withdrew the cash amount, less 5% for me to keep. I then headed down to Western Union to transfer it to the Russian address they provided. It’s funny because the clerk warned me about potential frauds but I told him, “Oh, no, this is my job. This is what my manager told me to do.” The clerk just shrugged. When I finished the deposit, I e-mailed Anastasia with the confirmation code for the Russians to pick it up on their end.

On the second day, Anastasia will reply with a confirmation of the previous day’s money transfer along with a new e-mail transfer for another thousands of dollars.

This continued for only a few days. On the fifth day, I woke up with no e-mails from Anastasia. Not even a confirmation e-mail about the last transfer. I figured it might be delayed but eventually, no e-mail came that day. I didn’t think much about it.

How I Found Out

After school on the fifth day, I had sushi and 20 minutes later, I decided to drop by McDonald’s to grab a drink. My debit card was declined. I called my bank, and they simply told me to go down the my nearest branch. I thought it was the oddest thing that just 20 minutes ago, my debit card approved the $13 sushi lunch but not a $1 drink.

The next day, I went down to the branch and explained to them what happened with my debit card. The teller told me to take a seat and the next thing I knew, the branch manager came to meet with me with papers in her hand.

I thought, well, of course, my bank suspended my debit card – they probably assume all those money withdrawals are theft. I thought all I needed to explain to them was that I got a new job that requires me to withdraw ~$950/day.

The manager asked about the recent money transfers and withdrawals. I told her it was a job and the manager told me, “Claire, you do know the money is illegal right?”

She told me I was a victim of fraud. The bank’s fraud department caught my transactions and froze my entire bank until further notice.

A few days later, my bank called me again. They reviewed my case and told me that my bank is still willing to keep me as a client BUT I have to pay back a total of $2,300 to the bank. My heart literally sank. I have no job, let alone even $2,300 lying around.

I asked if I could pay it off slowly and they told me no. Until I paid back the $2,300, my bank account was semi-frozen; which meant by bank released $500 to me but kept the rest frozen.

I started to panic, not knowing what to do. I couldn’t tell anyone because they’d think I was stupid. I eventually resorted to lying to my parents about additional school fees, and when asked about my new job, I lied and said they didn’t pay me yet. So my mum and dad each coughed up $1,000 each and I will pay the remaining $300.

When I had the money, I realized I didn’t know “how” to pay the bank back. I tried calling the manager but she wasn’t in that day. So, I figured the best I could do was just deposit the money and the bank would automatically take it.

They never did.

I was so confused and eventually, without knowing, I blew through the $2,300 and the bank never contacted me again. My account was still semi-frozen, meaning they kept about $200. I figured it was only $200 but at least my bank account and bank card are working normally again.

The Aftermath

In January 2014, I dropped into another branch to deal with an entirely different situation. There, I met the bank manager who cared a lot about customer service and felt pity for my situation after realizing my bank was semi-frozen. She was extremely embarrassed about how her colleagues from the other branch dealt with my situation when I told her no one ever followed up on me afterwards. She unfroze my bank account and cleared all red flags. 

I recognize how incredibly lucky my outcome was, and another reason why I hesitate to share my story is that I was a victim initially, but I didn’t lose out on anything when this ordeal came to an end. Not many people can be lucky and “get away” with circumstances like this. A while ago, I read about another victim in Alberta, in the same situation as me but embezzled more money than I did, and had to repay the bank in full amount. And we were under the same national bank!

No matter how long you’ve been on the Internet, don’t underestimate a situation. I was so blinded and couldn’t see any red flags, and I ended up as a victim of fraud. It’s best to look at the situation from a different perspective, aka, don’t be afraid and tell someone about the “job offering”.

When writing this experience for the first time in 2014, I listed all the names and information involved in this fraud. That was in 2014. Now, in 2024, I debated sharing the details because it’s been a decade and when I Googled the company and individuals involved, nothing comes up anymore.

But, you never know when they may strike again. So, to prevent any more victims, here are the information and people I’ve dealt with:

There are actual travellers purchasing vacation packages from these scammers. If you know someone planning a vacation to Russia, let them know about this fraudulent company. 

Company: Travel Agency Spectour
Company website:
Telephone number: (812) 347-75-07
83 Vitebskiy Ave.,
St.Petersburg, 196233, Russia

Anastasia Borodina, the hiring manager.

Ivan Bolotny, “manager”.

Money sent to:
Last name: Shpakau
First name: Pavel
City: Saint-Petersburg
Country: Russia
Address: 83 Vitebskiy Ave.
Postal code: 196233

They even had the nerve to send me another e-mail about another “job offering” with another “company”!
Anna Bolonina (Same person, different name)

“Official website”:

TLRU International, Inc.
37 Nevskiy Ave.
St. Petersburg, Russia

Phone: +7(812)346-1144

Stay safe, my fellow readers!

With love, Claire

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