How “Kelvin” tried to scam me

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” (kelvinduaner@gmail.com) 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:

The proposal and price is okay with me and i am ready to make full payment of your service now with my credit card so i can be rest assured the date is secured and booked for me already, I also need you to render me a favor regarding the event planner that is handling the event for me. The favor is that the event planner is currently not authorized to accept credit card so i want you to help coordinate his fee on my card along with your payment. I will give you my card to charge for your service and the event planner fee (You will charge your fee then charge an additional $2000 for the event planner) As soon as you charge it through and it approves you will forward his fee to him so everything can be set for the event, Reason i am asking you for the favor is cus i just got out of Intensive care and My Psychiatrist strongly advice me to minimize the stress i go through else i might develop severe weakness and tiredness. I am willing to offer you an extra $50 as tip for your assistance, Bear with me I will be authorizing and responsible for all the charges on my credit card. 
Below is the breakdown of the charges you will be running on my credit card:
Photo-shoot : $1000
Event Planner : $2000
Tip: $50
CC Charges: 2%
Kindly get back to me with the grand total you will be running on my credit card along with the details needed to process my card.
Thank you.
Signed, a Nigerian Prince.  Just kidding.  But seriously, this went from a pushy credit card man to major red flags.  But I couldn’t figure out the scam.  It didn’t feel right – and I’ve learned my intuition is correct roughly 90% of the time (yeah….I’ll admit I was a little off the time the fuze blew and I thought bad guys were about to take over the house).  So I decided to go along a little bit longer and see what I could learn.  Since when does someone try and scam you by GIVING you money?The first thing I did was ask for the event planners contact info.  Guess what his email was?e.planner@aol.com

aol.com

I’m going to repeat that once more.

aol.com

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 e.planner@aol.com, aka “Lewis” and, over the course of 3-4 emails, learned that he:

  1. Has no website
  2. Has not started filing taxes, so does not have a bank account setup (?!)
  3. 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.

  1. Kelvin pays me my fee + $2000
  2. I send a check for $2000 to e.planner@aol.com
  3. e.planner@aol.com cashes my check
  4. Kelvin tells his credit card company/paypal that I never sent e.planner@aol.com the check (Even thought I did)
  5. Credit card company/paypal takes the money back – the money I already sent to e.planner@aol.com
  6. 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!

16 thoughts on “How “Kelvin” tried to scam me

  1. This is a variation on the scam where they look for a person who has an old car, and tell you that there is a buyer overseas. They tell you they want to buy the car for whatever it’s worth. Then they tell you that they will send you the money + $5000, and all you have to do is send the extra $5000 to a person who will arrange pickup and shipping to overseas. They want you to write a check and send it to the person, and then their check actually bounces, and you are out $5000.

    If something sounds fishy, run away!

  2. Posting here to sympathize and add details. He just contacted me as well. In addition to using the email address kelvinduaner@gmail.com he also corresponded by text message from the number 832-323-2231 I told him my accountant advised against that practice and let it go.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this!! This is actually the third attempt by someone to do this to me and a small photographer in Michigan . The first was actually a girl but almost exactly the same thing that you wrote she said she was deaf and could not talk to me via telephone . She also wanted me to pay the event planner but I told her that was not something that I could do . I also figured out it was a scam but could not figure out how they got their money. I ultimately told her I was unavailable for the day that she requested . Today I received one from Kalvin. The wording was very similar in that text so I googled the phone number and found your message thanks again !

  4. He contacted me as well, and I’ve seen this approach before. I suspect he is using stolen credit cards – by the time the real card owner figures out the card has been used, you’ve already paid the scammer, and then the bank hits you up for running a charge on a stolen card without ID/proof, and you’re left to pay the entire charge. Well done on spotting this one! I think you saved yourself a lot of headache 🙂

  5. PS I had a friend investigate the message headers from one of his emails, and it showed

    Continent: Africa
    Country: Nigeria ng flag
    State/Region: Lagos
    City: Lagos
    Latitude: 6.4531 (6° 27′ 11.16? N)
    Longitude: 3.3958 (3° 23′ 44.88? E)

  6. This is a scam going around thumbtack right now. The red flags.. 1. His name is Tom Jones 2. He says the reunion is for 50-100 people on a MONDAY 3. He’s claiming the hotel/venue doesn’t take cc.. Ya ok! This scammer has posted 3 times and his days keep flip flopping..

  7. This happened to me a few months back as well. I got as far as 3 emails before I asked on the clickn moms forum about it and I got three responses immediately telling me it was a scam. Glad I asked someone before I got any further

  8. Thank you for sharing this!! He emailed me twice and i for some reason thought to google his email address and found this! Thanks again!

  9. Almost the exact thing happened to me recently. The email was almost word by word, the same. I found your blog here when I started to check this out. Thank you very much for posting this. Are they focusing on photographers now?

  10. I too was going to book a session with “Kelvin”. As soon as I received the email with this line… ( Reason i am asking you for the favor is cus i just got out of Intensive care and My Psychiatrist strongly advice me to minimize the stress i go through else i might develop severe weakness and tiredness), I knew it was a scam and emailed him back and said I didn’t have any availability!
    Then just out of curiosity, I googled the line and found your blog. Glad you saw through it as well.

  11. So I was contacted by this Kelvin. He said he is deaf and cannot speak by phone. He needs my planning services for an anniversary party. We got all the way to the payment and he won’t use paypal because it took $7000 from him or something. He wants me to set up a merchant account with Wells Fargo and he would pay my merchant fee. WTH? Not sure what the next step would be if I agree to this. Glad I told him no and immediately googled him and his number. I wasted a day txt’ing him to get info for his “anniversary party”. LOL.

  12. This “Kelvin” contacted me as well.
    This is a variation of something that happened to a friend of mine with a cashiers check- they send you a payment that isn’t real or backed up by actual funds, they get you to change it into cash/check and they keep your money. Then if it comes down to it, you’ve done something illegal and they can fight it in court.

  13. This same guy just contacted us (we are a tree service company). Now the story is that he has lung cancer and can’t speak by phone, but is desperate to get this treework done as a surprise birthday gift to his wife.

    The phone numbers he’s using are (412) 330-1893 and (323) 638-9352. The email he’s been messaging me from is kelvinduanerevils@gmail.com – ‘evils’ is a very appropriate addition, if you ask me.

    The address he gave me, which he’s asking us to go quote without him being home or talking to anybody, is a foreclosed house currently up for sale. His excuses keep changing and he suddenly was able to call me today. The quality was terrible and there was a lot of background noise, and it couldn’t have been more obvious that he was not local and never had been.

    I urge anyone who receives an email that makes them feel uncomfortable or skeptical to google every bit of information the supposed ‘client’ provides to them. This guy is definitely not legitimate and his scam is simple:

    1) Call company, give sob story, and beg for a chance to give you his credit card details.
    2) Once the (probably stolen) card has been run, perform whatever scam he’s running this week. (See any of the above comments for examples.)
    3) Since he’s scamming you by getting you to do something that seems innocuous but is actually illegal, he’ll be able to fight any accusations in court and keep all the money he stole from you.

    Never give or receive any credit card details online, especially over a medium as insecure as email!

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