Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The scam





It started out innocently at first with a simple email:

"Hello,

I am (name removed), I need to know if your products are available in stock for immediate order,so can you reconfirm your website,so i can review again with the products interested in,and do let me know if there will be any special pricing i need to know about.

Lastly regarding payment I will be sending you my credit card for the full payment charges for my order,do you accept Visa or Master?


I hope to hear from you as soon as possible so we can proceed with the Order.

Regards"


Hmmm, new customer. Who prefers not to read the website first but would rather just email to get all the information. Okay. I can deal with that. So I give a brief explanation of the process, the products, the 4-bar discount, the acceptance of credit cards, and a few links back to the site so they could read it all in more detail. All good.

Then I get the next email:

"Below here is the list of my order:

soap bars
Qty: 300

Please get back to me with the total cost estimate for this order so that i can make my payment via my credit card,so DONT worry about the shipping,I will have the shipping arrangement for the pick up of these items from your place through my shipping agent.

PLEASE LET ME KNOW THE GRAND TOTAL OF MY ORDER AND ALSO THE ESTIMATED WEIGHT OF THESE ITEMS FOR SHIPPING REASON AND PICK UP ARRANGEMENTS."


All this with a contact name, business name, address, phone and fax numbers, from a trading company in Thailand. Wow. This was not what I expected at all. I was just thinking it was a local lady who wanted to order a few bars. Not a huge wholesale request from overseas. So I'm confused now - so many questions. Who is this? Where did they see my product? What kinds of soap are they even buying?

All of these questions and more I send back in my reply. Who is the shipping agent? Are they picking up the boxes from my studio? How are you sending me the payment information? Plus I explained that it would take 2-3 weeks to get the order together, and I would need half of the money up front as a deposit.

Then I start the googling and following up. There is nobody listed with that name, that trading company. No traffic from Thailand, or anything else unusual on the website. And I get a response which makes it all more clear. The language in this next message is very bad English and the punctuation strange. But it states that the shipping agent has shipped for them before, but unfortunately is not able to accept credit cards right now because they are "upgrading their credit card facilities." Whatever that means. Nothing.

But the gist is that they want me to take the entire credit card transaction for my whole order, plus $965 in shipping charges, plus a $100 credit card transaction fee, plus another $50 for a western union fee to transfer money back to the shipping folks. And please do it immediately upon confirmation. They will get me the credit card right now. Am I online? Their payment is ready immediately. Today. Again, right now. Money coming your way. Lots of it.

No response to any of my questions about who they are, what is the nature of the business, and more importantly, no response about what they are actually ordering from me, beyond the ambiguous total of 300 bars of soap. Clearly not legitimately interested in the product, or my business. Just want to get that money thing done. Today. Right now.

So I started to write a response about how I would not accept funds for somebody else's business services, that if I could do the Western Union thing, so could they. But I just didn't want to play any more. So I went silent. And they've left me alone for a day. I'm guessing we're done.

I have no idea how the scam operates. Obviously it's a stolen credit card number. But I'm not clear how it goes from there. Like do they somehow back out my credit information through the transaction process? Or is it just simple money laundering and they get their half, and I get half for doing it for them? Am I responsible somehow for those fraud charges? I don't care, really. I'm not interested in getting involved in any way. And I'm so tired of having to watch my back all the time. People are so darn busy and creative in their criminal endeavors, aren't they?

On a happier note, the last week has been incredibly busy with orders and requests. The shop went well last week. I'm trucking along through February at a brisk pace, and all is well. Valentine's Day this weekend, and Mardi Gras a couple of days later. Who Dat!?!