The couple - Harriet, 28, and Bright, 27 - both work multiple jobs in order to try and pay off debts, and build a better life for themselves. A mon
The couple – Harriet, 28, and Bright, 27 – both work multiple jobs in order to try and pay off debts, and build a better life for themselves. A month ago, Bright decided to seek another way of bringing in more income. He was already working as a full-time chef and part time security officer.
He then received an out of the blue message on WhatsApp from an old friend.
After chatting for some time and explaining about his money worries, the friend recommended to Bright a marketing affiliate site called CJ – where users can review products such as designer goods or gadgets, and get a commission.
“The timing was perfect and it seemed so easy,” he explained, talking to MyLondon.
“All you had to do was 35 reviews and then you can withdraw the money you make from commissions.”
Harriet, who did extensive research on the web about CJ Affiliate, found nothing amiss about the company. The woman, who lives in Croydon, south London, said: “It all seemed very legit so Bright went ahead and got the friend to put him in touch with another man who used the site. When he signed up it was like he had won the lottery. I wish he had.”
Alas, as soon as Bright began reviewing products, the site was asking him to keep putting more money in to top up his account and it said he could not withdraw any cash until he had completed the 35 reviews.
“It started out as small amounts so I didn’t really worry at this point,” Bright recalls.
“However pretty soon, it was asking me to put in £100, £200 £300, £400, £500. And by that time I was in too deep. I had to keep putting money in and topping it up otherwise it said I wouldn’t get my money back, let alone the commission I was supposedly earning.”
Bright was forced to borrow money from wife Harriet and some other friends. He says he has always hated borrowing money or owing anyone anything, but “there was no other way”.
During this time, he spoke to the other user his friend had put him in touch with. The man was adamant this was how the site worked and he would definitely get all his money back by the end. So he continued.
Within a few days, he was being asked to put in amounts ranging from £1,000 to £3,000.
“When I saw the £3,000 flash up I have never had a feeling like that before,” he said. “I started hyperventilating and crying and I couldn’t go into work.”
By this point, Bright was on his 33rd review- just 2 away from being able to withdraw. Desperate, the couple got a loan worth £5,000 to cover the costs. At the 35th review he swiftly called the customer services number on the site to withdraw his money and get a full refund.
The woman on the phone said he couldn’t because his balance on his account exceeded the amount you were allowed to withdraw at. It was then when the couple realised something was seriously wrong.
“I just wanted to die,” Harriet said. After contacting the police, Bright was told that it was a civil matter, not a criminal matter, and there was nothing they could do.
Next, the couple did some more searching and came across a different customer services number the man gave them initially. They called and was put through to CJ Affiliate’s head office. The woman on the line asked for their details and promptly revealed there was no existing account with CJ Affiliate. It turned out Bright’s friend of a friend was a scammer, and he had created a bogus version of the company website.
The couple are now £9,000 down and are in more debt than they were before. Both their mental health have deteriorated significantly since losing the money.
Bright also can’t afford to pay for a flight to visit his mum in Germany who was recently admitted to hospital and has no other loved-ones in the country to rely on.
“Your head is all over the place. You feel angry, depressed, stupid,” Harriet said. “We have had to put aside our shame and pride to ask friends to help us.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up for anyone who wishes to make a donation.