Raleigh, N.C. — Ron Rhue is a proud Army man, and that makes him all the more angry about the scam that cost him money.
“The last one you want to mess with is a veteran,” he said.
Rhue uses the employment arm of the State's Department of Commerce to find work. A security guard position posted on the state’s website caught his eye.
The department even sent him and other veterans a letter pointing them to the job.
Rhue called the number listed and spoke with a man who identified himself as Chad Collier.
The man told him he was a perfect fit, Rhue said, “and then he began to tell me about the job.”
There was just one catch. Rhue was told he had to go through upcoming training at the Greenville Convention Center at cost of $500.
“The lump comes in my throat like OK, really?” Rhue said. “He says, ‘But of course we don't expect you to pay that.’”
Rhue's cost was $150, which according to Collier was “protection” should Rhue use the training to get other jobs. That reason made sense to Rhue, so he bought a debit card as instructed and paid Collier.
On the day his training was supposed to start, an excited Rhue went to the convention center with paperwork in hand.
“And I go in there and, of course, there's nobody," he said.
He called Collier several times and got no answer. So Rhue went to the employment office and talked to a staffer.
"He showed me a list and he said, ‘You are the 60th person that's been scammed, you know,’” Rhue said.
Although the job posted on the state’s employment website was thorough and believable, it was completely bogus.
The scammer somehow accessed a real company's login to post the job. The CEO of that company, Federal Security Services in Swansboro, is livid.
Walter Pylypiw believes the state employment office was "negligent" in allowing the post and called it "sloppy" that job postings aren't verified with a password or security question.
Department of Commerce spokesman Josh Ellis told us the fraudulent posting was on the state site for about two weeks.
“We haven’t had this problem anywhere close to this kind of scale before,” he said.
He said 121 vets across the state received letters about the bogus job, and at least a dozen paid $150 or more.
“With the volume of traffic that comes through…there's just no way to go through and do it,” Ellis said of the department’s lack of a verification process.
Said Rhue: "The employment office felt like their position was that they're not to blame because they're only a referral agency."
An investigation by 5 On Your Side found the exact same scam - using the same name and email addresses but a different company - made it through Michigan's employment site last month.
WRAL’s Monica Laliberte talked with a Chad Collier in Michigan. His law enforcement background parallels that of the person described in the scam, but he said he knows nothing about it and will help any way he can. Collier said he contacted Raleigh police Thursday and filed a complaint about identity theft.
Meanwhile, North Carolina has stepped up security and precautions. On Wednesday, officials added a bold message warning applicants not to send any kind of payment to a potential employer.
Ellis says victims should contact law enforcement. Rhue did and says he was told the best they could do was use the scam information as a training tool.
He just wants someone held accountable.
“For you to scam us out of it through a legitimate system, it's sad,” he said.