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Challenges, problems, and triumphs -- from a manufacturer's perspective.

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How a Vendor Scammed a Scammer

A sharp eye, a sense of humor Ė and be wary.

by Name Withheld (Aug. 18, 2008)

(Note: In the previous issue CLN published a report of an attempted scam against a small company, Art Declassified. To read the original article, click on the title, "How a Small Vendor Was Almost Scammed," in the right-hand column.)

That particular scam has become very prevalent. Almost always it is from "James" in Australia wanting orders for "Jamesí Country Store" (insert your favorite name in place of James). I have received numerous versions, but they are all "form" emails. I consider myself pretty savvy about these things, since I have been a computer consultant and teacher, and I can spot scams and phishing expeditions a mile away. However, the simplicity of the "troll" totally bypassed my radar, and I responded. As my staff caught wind of it, they wanted to drop "James," but I decided to have a little fun and scam the scammer.

The email chain is a hoot, as I purposely played my pigeon, and he was totally clueless (and largely illiterate). I created an alter ego to get my office off the hook, and my alter ego, Russell A Yokell (R.A. Yokell), carried on a long correspondence with the scammer. (If you want a good laugh, Iíll forward you the correspondence. If you enjoy a good malapropism, my office was rolling on the floor reading every email.) I actually was able to get "James" to send me money for Russellís favorite charity, the poor Hopeless Children Fundation (sic). By the way, the Hopeless Children are a charity effort of the Holy Order of Perpetual Agita.

In all seriousness, itís a variation on the Nigerian 419 Scam. It goes like this:

1. Email wanting to place an order for your products for a (generic) store in Australia. No identification of which products, etc Ė just a generic "want to buy."

2. Offer to pay whatever the price (no negotiation, no selection), and an add-on additional fee for their agent who will collect the product. The tipoff was that we offer our products in U.S. and Australian versions, and James (who was buying for his Australian store) selected the U.S. version

3. Offer to pay by Western Union, pay additional funds for his agent, and then have you remit the additional to the agent who picks up the product.

After I "played" my pigeon for a bit, I received a credit card number. The credit card was legit, and once owned by a legitimate person, but now had been reported stolen. Played "James" a bit longer and was sent a second credit card number. Ditto.

OK, no more credit cards Ė certified funds only. I received a money order by FedEx, but was an obvious forgery (amazing what you can print on a color inkjet these days), made out from a legitimate person in Ohio. (I traced her, and sheís real). Basically, these scammers have no end of stolen credit cards, stolen identities, etc.

I actually offered to turn the matter over to the police, but it was difficult to decide who was the proper authority to take on the case. Thatís why they continue; they skirt between the laws. (Note: Because this type of case is interstate fraud, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is probably the agency to call.)

This was one of the first that I encountered. Since then, I receive several a week, all following a similar pattern. Most want me to tell them who I am (please send me your website, etc). If they didnít know who we were, why are they contacting us? This spring I started noticing the scam has moved beyond Australia, and now the requests appear to come in from "customers" all over the world.

Please keep my identity anonymous; Iíd rather not meet "James" anytime soon.

(Note: The author added, "There is actually a group out there actively scamming the scammers. Some of the results are quite hilarious. Visit the Trophy Room at http://www.419eater.com.")



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