I had an interesting experience over the last few weeks. We need to all be aware that there are people out there who want to steal your money and will do so at any given opportunity.
About once a week, I post an ad on Craigslist advertising my computer repair services. It only takes a few minutes, it’s free, and it often brings me a new customer or two. I posted an ad on Sunday, September 6. The next day, Monday, I received an email from Sandra Rose (firstname.lastname@example.org). It said:
email@example.com: Hello are you capable of repairing computer in volumes? Let me know.
Having heard of this scam before, I was immediately suspicious. But I decided to play along. I responded as I would any request such as this:
Me: It depends on what kind of volume you are talking about, and what they need to have done. I can handle several concurrently, but if you are talking about hundreds or thousands, it might take me a while. ? Let me know what the situation is and I can provide a more detailed answer. Thanks –
Later that same day, I got a response:
firstname.lastname@example.org: I got 7 pentium IV dell laptops . Below are the things needed to be done one on each laptops.
1 Format Hard Drive
2 Install Win Xp with Service Pack 2
3 Microsoft Office Package
4 AVG Virus Software (Free Lifetime Updates)
5 Adobe Acrobat
6 Laptop Cleaning of the keyboard, screen and other case.
7 Diagnostics of the entire system after to check hard, cdrom, floppy, etc.
Get back to me with your total cost for the services of 7 units.
I await your urgent response.
One thing that is almost always a clue in identifying these morons is their poor spelling and grammar. I know their success rate would go up if they would just use a spelling/grammar checker. Anyway, I responded with a price.
Then I got the email that was additional proof that “Sandra” was a thief. She was not local to me:
email@example.com: Thanks for the reply. i am okay with the price i have all the necessary software needed for the service installations…. I will instruct my secretary to prepare a Certified check for you on your name and address . Do send me your full name and address and your phone # so as to prepare the check and shipping of the laptops to your address. i have a reliable shipper that will pickup the laptops when you are done with it.I am looking forward to hear from you,so we can have payment and shipping asap.
Obviously if you have a bunch of laptops that need to be repaired, and you are looking on Craigslist, you would look for a repair shop close by. Why ship them all out of town? I replied with my address and phone, and asked where the laptops were being shipped from. Her reply:
firstname.lastname@example.org: Thanks for getting back to me with the Information needed to make the payment. I will update you with the tracking number for the payment as soon as its been issue and mail out to you Asap. Thanks. Hope you perform a perfect and great work on my Units.
No mention of location, of course. But I ignored that – didn’t want to sound too suspicious.
Me: Thanks – I am sure you will be very happy with the work that is done.
Look forward to getting started.
The above exchanges all happened on the same day. Then, 5 days went by without any word from Sandra. What was wrong? Was there a problem? Then I got this:
email@example.com: Hello We have been having a problem with our financial institution, thats why you havent recieved any payment from myside.It has been rectified now and the laptops are still needed to to be serviced and i am wrting to you now to know if you will still be available to do this computers for us. Reply and let me know so that i can contact some other technician or i can forward your info so payment can be made out to you and i will include the shipping fees in the payment you will get, you will help me handle the shipping of the laptops to your.
PS BEAR WITH ME.
I assured her I was still waiting anxiously to get started working on her computers and that all was fine on my end. Then another SIX days goes by with nothing heard, until this:
firstname.lastname@example.org: hello how are you doing today..?hope all is well with you and the family i just what to say hi,and i will get you updated as soon as the payment is been mail out you. thank you for your understanding and have a great weekend.
Me: Why is it taking so long to mail payment?
But I got no response for FIVE more days. Then she emailed:
email@example.com: Hello there i will like to put to your notice that the paymentwill be mail to you befor friday and thank you so much for you understanding and hope we do this in good faith…
After a couple more days, she finally told me that the check had been sent and that the tracking number showed that it had arrived. She also gave me detailed instructions about how to proceed.
firstname.lastname@example.org: Hello Scott ,
i am very sorry for the late in response and i will like you to know that the check has been mailed to you and it has been delivered to you this morning AM.here is the shipment tracking number for it (A3782248865) so the check you recieve today is for the amount of $2,650 so what you will do is that you will have to get the check cashed at your bank or any cashing point and deduct your funds from it and you will be sending the rest through western union to the shipper so that they can ship out the laptops to you immediately tomorrow.here is the shipper information where you will be sending the rest funds to.
Name: Edward R Webster
City : Amarillo
State : Texas
Zipcode : 79110
(Thats is the shipper’s information required to send the money via western union) Once the money’s sent, YOU should send me the following infomation via email A. Your full names and address exactly how you wrote it on the western union slip.
B. The receiver’s name exactly how you penned it down on the western union slip.
C . The total amount sent.
D . MTCN number (This is the 10 digit number for receiving funds,it is not the receipt number)I will be waiting on your email,complete with the details,please get to it as soon as you can,the transaction has to be fully completed as soon as possible and hope reading back from you soonest.Thanks
When I got home later that day, sure enough, there was a large UPS delivery envelope waiting for me. Inside the envelope was this check (click to see it full size):
So do you get the scam now? The plan is for me to deposit the check at my bank, keep my few hundred dollars for my services, and send money from my account on to the “shipper” to cover the cost of shipping the laptops to me and back to him.
The only thing is, the check will bounce, and I will have to cover that $2000+ that I sent on by Western Union. Here’s a tip: you don’t get money back from Western Union. It’s the same as sending cash (which is why all the scammers use that method only).
I looked up the company name on the check (Rancho Electronics) and found that it was a real company in California. I called them and told them what was happening, and they confirmed that some other people had received checks just like I had. The scammer had somehow gotten their checking account number and routing number and was using that information to print these bogus checks. Of course, that bank account was now closed so none of them would ever clear.
So here is where I decided to play along a little more and cause the scammer some stress.
Me: I deposited the check this afternoon at my bank. My fee is only going to be a few hundred dollars – I hate to be holding so much of your money. Why don’t you just give me Mr. Webster’s address and I will overnight him my personal check. It seems like that would be so much easier.
email@example.com: Hello,Thanks for the quick response,Mr Webster is a very busy person and he wont be able to receive checks,,,,all you need to do now is just deduct your fee from the funds and send the rest funds on the payment after deducting your fee to Mr Webster cos he is highly waiting for funds so that he can ship out the units to you unfailingly tomorrow….you need to go and have the funds sent to him through western union unfailingly today and get back to me with the western union details so that i can forward it to the shipper for immediate pickup of funds and i will get back to you with the shipping tracking number of the units immediately you send the rest funds to him so that you can update the shipment and know when the units is gonna get delivered to you and hope you gonna work greatly on the units…..its really nice doing business with you and hope doing more in the nearest future
Me: Well, here’s the problem – I am going out of town tomorrow and through most of next week. I will have to go to the bank to get the cash to send by Western Union and I won’t be able to do that until I get back on Friday (Oct 2). If I mailed a check he would have the funds sooner, but if he doesn’t mind waiting until next weekend I can do it then. Sorry for the confusion.
firstname.lastname@example.org: Thanks for the mail,i will like you to go and send the cash unfailingly tomorrow by western union before leaving the town cos he can’t even wait for next week to receive funds and i will like you to have the cash sent to Mr Webster unfailingly tomorrow morning before leaving town so that we can proceed fast on this transaction…..you don’t to mail out check to him at all and…..all you need to do now is and withdraw out cash from you account and send it to the shipper so he can ship out the units to you by tomorrow….please make sure you get this done before leaving town tomorrow and get back to me with western union details so that i can forward it to him for immediate pickup…..Thanks
Me: Sandra, I just thought of something. My flight leaves at 8:15 am from Tampa so I will be flying before the bank opens. However – I will be in Oklahoma City all week next week, which is only about 100 miles from Amarillo where Mr. Webster is. Maybe we can meet somewhere?
email@example.com: Hello Scott,but you can western union the funds online then….He can’t come 100miles to meet you cos i told you earlier that he is a very busy being…you can get this done online with your credit card or just make sure you send the money out before leaving for your travel…ok,…please i want you to make this possible and i will compensate you with another $50 for all the inconveniences cos i want you to get the funds out to Mr Webster unfailingly tomorrow….pls get this done
Me: Okay, I am going to bed now but I just checked on the Western Union website and see where I can transfer the money by “Direct to bank”. That way he won’t have to go pick it up. I just need Mr. Webster’s bank name, account number and routing number. I will do that tomorrow afternoon when I land in Oklahoma. Thanks –
firstname.lastname@example.org: Why can’t you just follow instructions has instructed….i think this will be more easier for you now….go and have the money sent out to him as soon as you landed in Oaklahoma….you can western union the funds to him there…i think that will be more convenient for you and me….so get the funds out to him as asap in the noon as soon s you get there…ok…i’ll be here waiting for details and hope this is okay by you….Thanks
Me: Hi Sandra –
Landed this afternoon and gotten settled in at the hotel. I have come up with a solution to the problem. I have rearranged my schedule so that I have Monday free all day, so I can drive to Amarillo. I will get cash from the bank Monday morning and I can meet Mr. Webster later that morning (it’s about a 2-hour drive, so I can be there around 11:30 am). I just need to know where to meet Mr. Webster. Can you have him contact me, or I can call him tonight or Sunday to make arrangements? Whatever you think is best. Thanks –
email@example.com: Thanks for the mail,you dont need to drive to Edward before you can send him money….but i guess you taking this too hard for me….just do western union to him and all he is concerned about this transaction is to ship out units to you (been the shipper) and you dont need to have any contact with him cos you are dealing with me….so all you need to do now is go and get the cash and send the funds through western union to Mr Edward so he can ship out te units immediately and i want you to do as instructed now……..you said i your last mail that whatever i think is the best,so my best now is for you to send the funds to the shipper through western union to his information i sent you and hope you are not trying to play pranks on my money…..Dont forget i have your full residential details……Hope you get the money sent out soonest and hope working geatly on my units….Thanks
Me: What do you mean, you have my full residential details? Is that a threat? I went to all the trouble to arrange my schedule for Monday to make it easy on Mr. Edwards. I am not sure I want to do the repair work on your computers now. I will have to think about it.
firstname.lastname@example.org: Hello Scott,i am very very sorry,It’s just that i want both parties to be understandable so dont be mad at me now and i will be highly elated seeing you work on my units….so i will like you to bear with me….all you need to do now so that we can proceed fast on this transaction is to get the funds out and have it sent to the shipper through western union……please i am very sorry for all this inconveniencies but i will also like you to do as instructed and have the money sent out now…..once again Mr Scott,i am very sorry and hope reading back from you with western union details and how you have it penned down…its really nice doing business with you now and hoipe doing kore in the nearest future…..Thanks
Me: Okay, this is starting to get boring now and I don’t want to waste any more time with it.
People here in America know about your stupid scam, and you aren’t even very good at it.
It was interesting that you could accuse me of “playing pranks with your money”, when the whole point of this was to steal money from me. Your mother must be so proud.
Since I won’t hear from you again after this, I would encourage you strongly to get a real job and stop stealing from people who work for their money.
Not surprisingly, I never heard from her again even though I was still willing to unfailingly work on her computers. Always be watching out for the bad guys!
Great video this week – You have to watch these in order. The first one is a scene from the 2004 movie Miracle, about the US Olympic hockey team that pulled off an amazing upset victory from the Soviets. This scene is Coach Brooks (Kurt Russell) giving the pre-game pep talk to his team. The second video is the same scene, but performed by someone else.