HOUSTON -

She served our country for 10 years, earning a Purple Heart ribbon after being wounded in Afghanistan.

The former soldier -- whose identity Local 2 is not revealing -- now feels as if she was stabbed in her own heart, after scam artists staged an elaborate hoax to dupe her into a check-cashing scheme that now has her on the hook for $17,000.

"I'm scared to even be here," she said from inside her home. "They know my address, they know my information, and I'm just scared."

She went to Indeed.com -- a legitimate job search website -- looking for work. She was contacted by someone who said they represented a Middle Eastern oil and gas company. They said they were impressed with her history as a logistics specialist in the Army.

After an online interview two weeks ago, she was hired by the alleged representative, who even met her with other so-called company reps at a warehouse in Baytown where they said her office would be.

Two of the men who said they didn't speak English were even draped in traditional Arab dress.

"They had white robes and like the black band around their head," the alleged victim said. "They looked legit."

The two men mailed her several checks to get their imaginary Houston-area office up and running. As instructed by who she thought were her new bosses, she cashed the checks into her own account and purchased software and other equipment with the cash.

The scammers would then use receipts and invoices to return the items and get cash in return. Once her bank discovered the fraudulent checks they informed her she would be responsible for full payment.

"I just can't believe this happened to me," she said. "I served my country and now I'm a victim in my own country."