Two weeks ago, we were contacted by a reader who described a scam to us that really got under our skin. What pissed us off about this scam was that the fraudster attempted to exploit the livelihood of our reader who happens to be a hard working single mother. Gross. This reader is an Artist and a Teacher who works in a k-6 school but who also promotes her photography via a beautiful website that she paid for with her own hard earned money. We would also like to mention that she is well educated (holding a Bachelor of Fines Arts Degree) and in the 35 – 40 age range. We’ll call her Marie, here’s what happened in her words…
“I recently was contacted by someone who wanted to purchase some of my art that he found on my website. He claimed he wanted sizes that I did not offer on my site. The emails came from: email@example.com I also received text from “Thomas” from this US # 303-578-0757. This seemed strange considering he claimed to be from Ontario.”
“He said he would send me a check from his company via UPS. The amount I quoted him for the photographic images was $140.00 plus post. He indicated he would send a check for enough to cover the cost plus shipping. (I was becoming sceptical and didn’t actually have the images printed, waiting to see if payment actually arrived.)”
“A cheque arrived yesterday from UPS to my work for $1,999.00. Obviously way too much. When I questioned this things started getting complicated. “Thomas” wanted me to send a money gram to his mover (he’s moving to Turkey,) for whatever was left over after my $140.00 prints and the cost of sending the money gram. Also Thomas is in a time crunch and can’t wait to have my work. So he wanted me to send over $1800.00 in a money gram to his “mover.”
After receiving what she suspected was a counterfeit cheque, Marie looked up the financial institution that the cheque was drawn on and the company name used on the cheque. The address of the Credit Union shown on the cheque was incorrect but she found that the Credit Union was actually legitimate. When Marie contacted the Credit Union directly and informed them of the counterfeit cheque, this is what they had to say…
My name is Jane and I work at SCU. Your e-mail was forwarded to me as I have been working with the fraudulent cheques surfacing on this company’s account. I really appreciate all the details in your e-mail. I would strongly advise to take all this information to your local Police. You have provided so many names and contacts – this is important information. Please feel free to contact me at any time, should you have further questions or concerns.
Thank you and have a great day,
Thank you Jane,
I was advised to be in touch with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center as this case reaches across at least three provinces. I will stop by my local Police and start a file with them if it helps you out? Do you want the cheque and envelope for your case should you be able to press charges?
Thanks for answering.
SCU is in no position to press charges, it would be our member (the account holder) and they have already done so. But I strongly believe it can only help in stopping these fraudsters if you provide all this information.
Since these cheques have surfaced, I would say a couple of hundred have tried to clear. You are the first person to receive that much information. Please do take all this information to your local Police – it will be very helpful in stopping these fraudsters.
Good Morning Jane,
As I did not deposit the cheque no actual crime has been committed, as I was not defrauded of any money. The local Police won’t start a file for a crime that did not happen, this is what I was told. If you or your client would like any other information from me please do not hesitate to get in touch. I have filled a report dated Jan 26 2016 with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center, the complaint reference number is XXXXX. I do not expect to hear from them either though as I did not lose any money. “Thomas” is now threatening me with legal action trying to turn the tables and scare me into sending him money. It is disgusting behavior. I’m afraid your client is likely the only person who has the legal authority for complaint in this case.
Thank you for your support in taking my information,
As Marie was working toward exposing this fraudster to the appropriate authorities, the creep emailed her again in the following threatening tone…
On Thu, Jan 28, 2016 at 6:45 AM, Thomas Rice <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
“I’m still wondering why I haven’t heard back from you as I have been sending you several emails and text messages to the phone# you have provided and you have intentionally refused to respond. what’s going on??
My shipper has been waiting to receive his money from you so he can get in touch with you and set up time and date for pick up. I would appreciate if you get back to me and let me know when this transaction would come to an end.
If I don’t still hear from you within the next 24 hours I think I might be forced to involve my attorney and the local authority in this transaction and forward all your contact information I’m having with me and also forward a copy to my attorney so they can get in touch with you in case they have questions for you because this seem to me like you are trying to run away with my money and pull some scam.
After receiving the above email, Marie responded by writing back to the fraudster telling them to never contact her again. As far as we know she has not heard back from him since. So, now that you’ve seen how this type of scam unfolds, we should explain that this type of fraud is classified as a mass marketing fraud. Note that the woman (Jane) from the Credit Union stated that hundreds of these counterfeit cheques had tried to clear and that the company who’s name was being used was taking action.
Marie’s case is a sale of merchandise by complainant scam but is commonly known as an “overpayment scam”. This includes any incident involving a person selling merchandise or a service who receives payment in the form of a counterfeit cheque from the “purchaser” in an amount that exceeds the amount owed. The “purchaser” then requests reimbursement of payment or may request that the excess funds be directed to a third party.
Other mass marketing frauds are:
- Job offer scams
- Prize-lottery scams
- Foreign money offer scams
We found some stats from Canada in 2012 where a reported 41, 496 complaints were filed in relation to mass marketing fraud. The reported losses that accompanied these claims reached a whopping $76,132,679.08 and, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center it was Canadians between the ages of 50 – 59 yrs who suffered the greatest financial loss. It is our understanding that this type of fraud has been on the rise since 2012 so it’s a good idea to be aware of and know how to protect yourself:
- Know who you are dealing
- Independently confirm the buyer’s name, street address and telephone number
- Never accept a payment for more than your selling price
- Never agree to wire funds back to a buyer or a third party
- Resist pressure to “act now”
Our reader got a strange vibe from communications with her “purchaser” early on and rightfully looked into the details found on the cheque when it arrived. She noted that the area code of the cell number she was given did not match the location that the “purchaser” claimed to be contacting her from. Another huge step that she took to protect herself was that she limited the amount of personal information she gave to this fraudster by providing her work address for delivery rather than her residential address. This gal was tuned into her intuition and she followed through with reporting despite feeling a little burned about not making an actual sale. We give Marie kudos for taking the time to document this event and for allowing us to share it with ya’ll!
One last thing we’d like to point out is that Jane from the Credit Union instructed Marie to take her report to the local Police. We assume that that is a standard procedure carried out by that particular financial institution but we can’t stress enough that a standard procedure of a financial institution will not necessarily be matched by that of your local authorities. Don’t get frustrated if you are directed to the Police only to find out that your concern isn’t a Police matter. Local authorities are just that, local. There are often inter-jurisdictional issues that prevent local Police from taking on a file, this does not mean that there isn’t a more appropriate authority to report your concern to. In Marie’s case the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center was the correct authority to make report to.
Stay vigilant friends!
Link to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center
Feature Image Credit: Original photo submitted by Investigator Girl Blog Reader