I am both very trusting and highly skeptical, traits that have served me well over my 30 something years on the planet.
A few weeks ago, “Kelvin Duaner” (firstname.lastname@example.org) emailed Brooke and I to inquire about rates for a family reunion package and whether we accepted credit card. Both are fairly common requests.
We went back and forth with “Kelvin” a few times, ultimately settling on a rate for 5 hours of service. The only kicker? He was adamant about paying by credit card. As a general rule, we don’t accept credit payments. We’re setup to do it, but try to stick with checks. Old school. I know. I offered Kelvin a few different options, but he wouldn’t budge. I figured the miles were REALLY important to him. Been there. So I gave in and provided a paypal invoice.
Then I received this email:
I’m going to repeat that once more.
Do those email addresses even exist anymore? Is he still paying AOL for dial up service?! These are the things that went through my head!
I contacted email@example.com, aka “Lewis” and, over the course of 3-4 emails, learned that he:
- Has no website
- Has not started filing taxes, so does not have a bank account setup (?!)
- Is unable to accept payment at the event
At this point, I was still unclear about the actual scam, but all signs were pointing towards something super shady. I figured it was maybe stolen credit cards, but still couldn’t reason through it all. I let “Kelvin” know I wouldn’t be able to facilitate his payment to e.planner/Lewis but I’d still be happy to photograph his event.
As you can imagine, I’ve heard nothing since.
Fast forward a week or two and I’m telling the folks at work about this supposed scam and how I’m still baffled as to how they were going to make money. And then my co-worker explained it to me.
- Kelvin pays me my fee + $2000
- I send a check for $2000 to firstname.lastname@example.org
- email@example.com cashes my check
- Kelvin tells his credit card company/paypal that I never sent firstname.lastname@example.org the check (Even thought I did)
- Credit card company/paypal takes the money back – the money I already sent to email@example.com
- I’m out $2000 and e.planner, with the dumbest email ever, swindles me
It all made pretty decent sense after it was explained. And I’m obviously glad I didn’t go along with it. But it’s probably one of better email scams I’ve seen – and I’m a little annoyed at myself for making it as far as I did before realizing it was a scam. I hate the idea of someone taking advantage of an unknowing small business owner or someone just trying to help. Someone who may not realize that an @aol.com email is a major red flag!
This probably doesn’t directly pertain to most of you, but a good reminder to be wary! Happy Monday!