Thursday, February 19, 2015

we got scammed - vanilla reload cards


It's really easy to realize you were scammed after the fact. It's so obvious that it's a scam but when you're in the moment, you're not thinking, you're just reacting. They manipulate you mind and scare you into doing things you wouldn't normally do. Here's our story:

A "police officer" named Officer Mark Williams called my boyfriend Keith (from a Washington D.C. number) and told him that he owed in back taxes from 2006-2012. Keith was doing his own taxes & a college student so he assumed that maybe he did his taxes wrong. Maybe they were right. The police officer informed Keith that if he didn't pay now he would be arrested and his court date was two days later. Panicked Keith followed the steps to be on good terms with the IRS.

He was then transferred to speak to IRS officer Roger Reed. Mr. Reed gave Keith and at this point, me the directions to pay for his back taxes. He informed Keith that he is to go to Office Depot and purchase Vanilla Reload cards. Vanilla Reload cards are the form of payment that the IRS accepted. Vanilla Reload cards can only be purchased with cash. At this point Keith owned around $3,000 in back taxes and needed to purchase four $500 Vanilla Reload cards at this one Office Depot and then we would drive to another Office Depots to purchase more.

This whole time Keith was told to honor an agreement of confidentiality with Mr. Reed & had to stay on the phone (the whole time. It was a phone call that last many hours.). This made it difficult for me to talk to him. Keith was unable to explain the situation to me and I was the one driving, which also increased the difficulties.  

After Keith paid the $3,000, Mr. Reed then gave Keith three options:
1. Be detained by the police until his court date with the federal government. 
2. Pay a $9,000 fee to the IRS as a holding fee, while they process his case and deduct the necessary fees. He said that a portion of the $9,000 would be given back in the next tax return.  
3. Pay a one time lump sum of $4,500 to cover all of the back taxes from 2006-2012. 

He choose option 2 (to at least insure that he would get money in return & not go to jail). We went to the bank to get more cash to be able to purchase more Vanilla Reload cards. We drove to probably every Office Depot in Orange County purchasing the cards. After we purchased a card Keith would give Mr. Reed the pin number on the back of the card to transfer the money to Keith's IRS account. 

We did this from 11am-6pm. It was exhausting. It was scary. We were frightened, confused & knowing that our Europe trip was slipping out of our fingers. The confidentiality agreement was debilitating. I felt like I couldn't tell anyone what we were going through and Keith's phone was in constant use because he was on the phone with Mr. Reed. After it was finally done, I Googled "Vanilla Reload Card Scam." Our story is just like many others.    

We're a few days removed from the situation & we're realizing how common a scam it is. I wish I would have researched it earlier. It all just felt like a dream. We are in a lot of pain about this. It's numbing. Not only did we loose $11,000 but our Europe trip may not be realistic for us anymore. We saved for years and it all slipped through our fingers in half a day. Like I said, it's really obvious that it's a scam after the fact but when you're in the middle of it, the scammer knew all of the right things to say. He had a pretty tight grip on us. I had my doubts and tried to figure it out, but like I said the confidentiality agreement was debilitating.

Now we're trying to figure out what our next move is. I quit my job last week and this is Keith's last week of work. We are still trying to figure out if Europe is an option anymore. We are pinching pennies & beginning to collect our belongings to sell. We have also set up a GoFundMe page & appreciate any help we can get. 

Please spread the word about this scam. I do not want anyone to go through what we went through. Thank you for reading.

- Christina 

[EDIT 2/24/2015:] Thank you all for you comments, concerns and donations on our GoFundMe page. We are overwhelmed by the response we are getting. I wanted to answer some questions we’ve been getting to clarify our current situation. 

We contacted Vanilla Reload the night it happened. We were able to recover $1,000 back onto two cards. We also submitted a dispute form. We have not heard back from them. 

We have contacted the police and have filed a police report. They do not have high hopes that money will be recovered. 

We’ve filed reports with IRS, FTC, the National Treasury, Bank of America & the District Attorney.  

We’re learning more and more about this scam. It’s been effecting many Americans around the nation. It is very prevalent during tax season. We do no know how these scammers got Keith’s information but they contacted him a day after we filed our taxes. So that can be related. 

Thank you so much for donating and spreading the word. We appreciate your tweets & sharing on Facebook. Anything helps. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

weekly wishes 003

Weekly Wishes, created by Melyssa from The Nectar Collective, is a place to share your weekly goals. 
Join & see what we achieve!

I hope everyone had a productive week last week. It was my last week working & now I'm officially on "get my Europe to do list done" & blogging mode. It's interesting and exciting to not have a job to go to. 

Last night for Valentine's Day, my boyfriend Keith and I went to a fun bar called The Blind Donkey in Long Beach. There was a photo booth that I couldn't turn down. I think I've made it a promise to myself to use photo booths every time I encounter one. I hope you had a fun Valentine's Day. What did you do?

Last week my goals were to:

1. Organize my Europe to do list. I finally did it. Everything is in order. I have my "To Buy," "To Pack," & "To Do." This list is long, but I'm ready to tackle it!

2. Order my Warby Parker frames. I am so happy to get this off of my to do list. I've been procrastinating it because I needed to scan in my prescription. You know those easy tasks that you just don't make time for? Ya, that was one of them.

3. Make my own açaí bowl. I didn't do it :( My local grocery store does carry açaí, so that's one step in the right direction!

This week my goals are to:

1. (a really boring goal, but) Organize all of my files. I just recently switched out my MacBook Pro for a MacBook Air & I just threw a bunch of files onto my external. & my Dropbox account is a mess (& I want to clean it up before I travel!). 

2. Make my own açaí bowl! I can do it this week. 

3. Work on my Europe to do list. Now that I have my to do list organized, I can now chip away at it. 

What are you goals for the week?

- Christina

P.S. - I'm currently hosting a giveaway on my Instagram page. Please feel free to enter! Thank YOU!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

#throwbackthursday to vlogmas 2014 | VLOG TWO



Here's another installment of me throwing it back to Vlogmas 2014. My #throwbackthursday if you will. ;) Join me as I watch Love Actually for the first time, get my bangs trimmed by Grace & show you some cereals that I love. 

This is my second vlogmas vlog out of four. Feel free to watch my first vlog!

- Christina

P.S. - I'm currently hosting a giveaway on my Instagram page. Please feel free to enter! Thank YOU!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I CUT MY HAIR!!!





For the past 5 years or so, I would grown my hair long, chop it off & repeat. For the past 2 years my hair has be long. I was debating about whether or not I wanted to cut my hair. I would go through phases like, "I am going to cut my hair!" & then I'll be scrolling through Instagram, see this and then change my mind again. 

Then I would think about how much my hair is a pain. My hair would take so long to wash and dry (AND STYLE if I wanted to do that, but I didn't because it was time consuming). My hair became a time consuming project, something I didn't want to have to worry about when I'm traveling
So I cut it! 

My friend, Grace Harpole hair stylist at Toni & Guy gave me this great cut. We've been adorable this last few months pinning and brainstorming what it was going to look like. I know I wanted it below my shoulders so I can pull it up when I want and have a soft A line. I also decided that I want to grow out my bangs while I'm traveling. I don't want to worry about making a bang trim appointment every 3-4 weeks. 

So what do you think?! I love it. Thank you, Grace!

- Christina

P.S. - I'm currently hosting a giveaway on my Instagram page. Please feel free to enter! Thank YOU!

instagram | bloglovin' | twitter | pinterest | youtube

my tank is arm the animals

Monday, February 09, 2015

weekly wishes 002


So my first round of Weekly Wishes was successful! Last week my goals were to: 

1. Post a giveaway! CHECK! If you missed it, starting yesterday I am hosting a giveaway. I am giving away an adorable tank from Arm the Animals. Please check it out!

2. Schedule my blog posts into a calendar. CHECK! I have a lot of blogpost ideas, it's just a matter of giving myself a deadline. I now have all of February planned out. Very excited!

This week my goals are:

1. Organize my Europe to do list. I currently have a Google Doc that I keep on adding "to dos" & my shopping list to & it's all over the place. It needs to put into categories. Like things I need to pack, things I need to buy, etc.

2. Order my Warby Parker frames!

3. Make my own açaí bowl. I always buy açaí bowls, this post has really inspired me to make my own. Anyone know where I can buy açaí? Whole Foods? Online?

What are your goals for this week? I'm excited for this upcoming week. It's my last week of work. From here on out I'll be focusing on my Europe to do list & blogging. I'm really excited for the rest of this month and leaving to Europe in March

I hope you have a positive, productive week! 

- Christina

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