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WARNING! Danger, Will Robinson! – or – If It Seems Too Good to Be True…

The “science” of scamming is fascinating – both from the perspective of the gullible victim, and from examining the tactics of the perpetrator.  As a nearly life long social worker, and as someone who’s had multiple scammers attempt to steal from my businesses (real estate/property management, and retail) over the years, I’ve studied these crooks – and even taught a couple of classes on the subject.

The good ones know how to suck us in, and appeal both to our innate greed (desire to get something for little effort), emotions (desire to be helpful) and gullibility (desire to believe in the goodness of others).  They don’t generally hit you over the head with their methods, but rather, reel you in until you’re screwed.

When Scam-Boy hit me up via text a couple of weeks  ago, I immediately knew exactly what was happening.  This guy – unlike the one of a month or so ago, who gave up immediately when he realized I wasn’t falling for it – seems kind of stupid and bad at the whole thing.  I’m not going to give away everything he did wrong here, because there’s no sense in educating perps-in-training, but maybe you can figure it out.

And you can see how much fun I’ve been having with this jerk.

Here are the texts to date:

Saturday, July 23.  9:08 am
(702) 550-1171

Scam-Boy:  “Live – Love” Settee, Handcrafted – $248 (Lewiston)

S-B:  Live – Love Settee by Local Artisan – $248 (Lewiston)

ME:  ????

S-B:  Can i send you a cashiers check for the item and once check clears my movers will come for pickup

ME:  Once payment is received you can of course have the item. 

S-B:  Okay..Text me your name and mailing address to mail the check to asap

ME:  Make the check out to What a Great Event. The mailing address is P O Box 282 Auburn ME 04210. With tax the total is $261.64. 

S-B:  Okay…note,i will include the movers fee to the payment so once you have your cash,rest will be for the movers so pickup can be done,

S-B:  thanks.

Later that same morning (my iPhone didn’t record the time)

S-B:  Got my previous text  ?

ME:  Yes

S-B:  i will keep you posted

I did not respond.

 

Saturday, July 30 (one week later).   3:10 pm

S-B:  electronically via ATM,mobile deposit or bank and get back to me with when you want pickup done,thanks.

S-B:  Sorry i got back to you late.Here’s the tracking # 9405501699320088902930 i got from usps. Once you have it, kindly have it deposited

I did not respond.

 

Monday, August 1.  11:32 am

(402) 295-5764  (Note the different phone number.)

S-B:  Good morning,check delivered.

I did not respond.

S-B: Your item has been delivered and is available at a PO Box at 8:56 am on August 1, 2016 in AUBURN, ME 04212

S-B:  kindly deposit and advice on pickup,thanks.

I did not respond.

 

Monday, August 1st.  1:15 pm.

I went to the post office and picked up the check (see below), which was in the amount of $1,750.00. Although visually it appeared to be a real check drawn on a CitiBank account, the paper it was printed on was not check paper, and there was no stub or notation at all.  The return address on the USPS mailer was Miami.

And remember, the total for the item with tax was $261.64.  This was rather a lot more. Ahh, what was it that Scam-Boy said?  I was to use the excess to pay the “moving agent”. Seriously, this item could be shipped for $200 or thereabouts. To pay a “moving agent” what would amount to somewhat under $1,500.00 is patently absurd.

I then went straight to my bank and asked to speak to someone in the fraud division. They called CitiBank, and were told CitiBank would not verify funds over the phone, but my bank could fax them a copy of the “check” and they’d verify the funds then.  CitiBank did not respond to the fax by the time I had to leave for one of my social work clients.

As I left the bank, I called the FBI and was directed to their Internet Crimes website, which lists a number of scams including one similar to this one, and which is reprinted at the end of this blog.

 

Tuesday, August 2.  9:00 am

I went into my bank this morning and was given the faxed response from CitiBank which said in essence that they do not verify funds.  This was after the initial call in which they said they would verify via fax.  (See copy of return fax below.)

Seriously?  All banks verify funds.  But CitiBank won’t?  After they had said the previous day that they would?  So I looked up CitiBank’s policy, which you can find on-line here: http://www.ehow.com/how_8444254_verify-check-citibank.html

  • According to this site, in order to verify funds with CitiBank, one must physically go into a branch and present the check to a teller, along with proof of your own identification.  (This is different than my bank was told.)  Although there are ATMs nearby, there appear to be NO Citibank branches in Maine, and none even within 50 miles of Maine’s southernmost tip.  So, verifying funds from a CitiBank account is not available to Maine residents, unless one wants to spend hours traveling out of state and back.

 

Tuesday, August 2.  1:38 pm.

(281) 529-5093 (This is the 3rd phone number the guy has used.)

S-B:  I DONT APPRECIATE YOUR LONG SILENCE AFTER THE DELIVERY OF MY CHECK

ME:  No need to yell. I also work full-time as a social worker and I am pulling 110 hour work weeks. I am with a client right now. Will get back to you soon.

S-B:  when will you be able to check your mail box and have the check deposited ?

Later that afternoon, when I didn’t respond…

S-B:  Got my previous text ?

I did not respond.


Wednesday, August 3.   8:55 am
(917) 631-7338  (This is the 4th phone number the guy has used.)

S-B:  Good morning,have you been able to deposit the check yet  ?

ME:  Our policy is to always verify funds prior to deposit when the amount is over $500. Your bank refuses to verify. If you would kindly authorize them to release that information I would appreciate it. 

S-B:  My banker adviced you are to deposit the check and wait for your bank policy for check to clear and funds are available in your accoun

S-B:  t before we proceed with the pickup

ME:  Oh, we will be delivering in your area so can handle that as well. Our typical charge (please see shipping policy on our website) is 79c per mile which would add up to a significant sum, but because we can combine this with several other simultaneous shipments, we’re willing to do so for the difference between the cost of the item and the amount of your check. 

ME:  So as soon as your bank verifies funds, we will deliver the item to you. The full amount of your check will cover everything and you’ll be guaranteed a timely, quality delivery!

S-B:  i have a mover agent who will come for pickup

S-B:  All you need to do is deduct your item fee + $40 extra and send the rest to the movers so pickup can be done thereafter,thanks.

ME:  That makes little sense as we’ll already be in your area, but that’s your decision. In any event, just have your bank verify funds and the item is yours. Otherwise, I do have someone here in town who has asked for the item. 

ME:  I’m about to go into my daytime job and won’t be available again until tomorrow. I’m at the bank ready to deposit this if you would just verify funds.

 

Wednesday, August 3.  10:38 am

S-B:  check deposited ?

ME:  No. You didn’t respond and I had to go to work. Am in a meeting. Will be unavailable to address this for the rest of the day, as previously noted. Sorry.

 

Thursday, August 4.  9:30 am

I should have heard from Scam-Boy by now.  Or has he finally caught on that I’ve been messing with him?  My next step is already planned out, but perhaps he’s gotten cold feet?  It may be time to reach out to him, since all along, I’ve let the guy contact me and that is likely a tip off that I think he’s full of horse puckey – I’m showing no urgency on my end…

 

Thursday, August 4.  10:28 am.

ME:  So…??

A while later.

S-B:   Good morning.

A while later.

ME:  Sorry.  Customers in the shop.  Where did we leave this?  You were going to have your bank verify funds availability, right? 

 

Friday, August 5.  7:15 am.

Scam-Boy did not respond yesterday.  I messaged my husband that “Wah… my friend doesn’t want to play any more”, and considered just dropping it and finishing this blog, but this morning decided to try one last time to see if I could keep him going and sent off the following:

ME:  Okay.  I’m willing to do business with you but need something more from your end. 


It’s unlikely that he’ll respond; I suspect he’s figured out that there’s nothing happening here.  (That should be obvious, right?)

So I’ll publish this – and if there are any new developments, will let you all know!

For anyone who’s tempted to cash a “check” for far more money than what you’re owed… seriously, think about it!  Why would some guy send me 7 times the cost of the item?  For his movers?  Really?   This guy is going to pay movers nearly $1500 when I could ship the item for $200?

Just be smart, and don’t get caught in this crap because you will lose.

UPDATE:  I messaged CitiBank, forwarding them a copy of this blog.  Here’s their response:

Hello and thank you for your message. Citibank does not provide account specific information to third parties without customer’s consent. – Yuriana C.

Would it have helped to have known that there was indeed enough money in that account to cover the $1,750 “check”? Likely not…. but then, that’s not the point. CitiBank should be on the alert for fraudulent activity using their bank, and should have been interested to learn of a possible fraud being perpetrated.  They were not.

I did hear back from Scam-Boy yesterday after my probe above.

ME:  Okay.  I’m willing to do business with you but need something more from your end. 

Friday, August 5.  7:18 am.

S-B:  Okay..i’m all hearz

ME:  The item costs $248 plus tax. It would only cost you about $300 for shipping and handling via Fed Ex.  That’s a total of less than $600, which is $1150 – or one-third of what you sent me.  No reasonable person wants to spend three times what they have to for an item. So you send me a money order for $600 and once it clears I will ship the item to you.  No need for a moving agent who’s going to overcharge you.

I did not hear back from him after this; nor did I expect to.  I continued to play the straight man on this, just to mess with him.  Unless he reads this blog, he’ll never know for sure whether I was stringing him along, or if I was just a stupidly earnest business owner.

From the FBI’s Internet Crimes website:
COUNTERFEIT CASHIER’S CHECK

The counterfeit cashier’s check scheme targets individuals that use Internet classified advertisements to sell merchandise. Typically, an interested party located outside the United States contacts a seller. The seller is told that the buyer has an associate in the United States that owes him money. As such, he will have the associate send the seller a cashier’s check for the amount owed to the buyer.

The amount of the cashier’s check will be thousands of dollars more than the price of the merchandise and the seller is told the excess amount will be used to pay the shipping costs associated with getting the merchandise to his location. The seller is instructed to deposit the check, and as soon as it clears, to wire the excess funds back to the buyer or to another associate identified as a shipping agent. In most instances, the money is sent to locations in West Africa (Nigeria).

Because a cashier’s check is used, a bank will typically release the funds immediately, or after a one or two day hold. Falsely believing the check has cleared, the seller wires the money as instructed.

In some cases, the buyer is able to convince the seller that some circumstance has arisen that necessitates the cancellation of the sale, and is successful in conning the victim into sending the remainder of the money. Shortly thereafter, the victim’s bank notifies him that the check was fraudulent, and the bank is holding the victim responsible for the full amount of the check.

Fraud 3 Fraud

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