By Tim McNicholas

CHICAGO (CBS) — Have you ever wondered how a scam works? Sometimes the con artists turn their victims into accomplices. That’s what we discovered as we unraveled an employment scam that targeted a Summit woman.

Morning Insider Tim McNicholas takes us inside a growing scam.

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“I feel sick to my stomach,” said a Michigan woman who was in search for love. “I was just looking for a relationship, I don’t know how I got into this mess.”

Meantime, Carla Wilbon, of southwest suburban Summit, is out thousands of dollars, with nothing but a fake check to show for it.

“I would like to see him prosecuted,” she said. “My phone bill was due, my mortgage was due, and now because of all this, everything is behind.”

You might wonder what one has to do with the other.

Wilbon works from home scheduling doctors’ appointments for people in need, but when someone in her own family got sick, that job wasn’t enough to pay the bills.

“So I wanted to try to supplement my income,” she said.

She picked up a second gig as an assistant to the CEO of something called Hawkins Interior Design—they even had a legit-looking website.

“This is a remote position,” she said.

A so-called CEO sent her a check right out of the gates for $2,800. He asked her to deposit it into her own account, then take out $2,600 in money orders to pay some bills for him.

“Now, the check that was in our account, it came back as being fictitious, as being altered. So our account is in negative, our account is all messed up,” Wilbon said.

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But by the time she realized that, she’d already FedEx’d those money orders—as instructed, with funds from her own account—to an address in Michigan.

CBS 2 tracked down the person staying at that address.

The woman who lived there said her online boyfriend of five years—a man she’d never met but texted weekly—recently told her a few Fed Ex shipments were coming—payments for paintings he’d just sold.

At his request, she forwarded them to another address and he’d finally have the funds to return from Europe so the two lovebirds could live together.

“I was supposed to go to California, he was gonna fly me to California,” she said.

CBS 2 told her scammers often send their loot to multiple addresses so it’s harder to trace back to them.

“I don’t know if I hurt anybody. I didn’t mean to. I would never do anything dishonest in my life, if my life depended on it, if I knew I was doing it,” she said.

Now that woman says she, too, was a victim. A couple years ago, her supposed lover convinced her to pay for his open-heart surgery. But she’s the only one with a broken heart.

“I think it was a scam. I can’t believe I was so stupid,” she said.

CBS 2 tried reaching that CEO/online boyfriend through multiple calls and texts to multiple numbers, but got no answer.

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The Better Business Bureau says, with such a turbulent job market, employment scams are on the rise.

Tim McNicholas