Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"What big teeth you have!" - part deux

Untitled by Sara Soderholm
Untitled, a photo by Sara Soderholm on Flickr.
Have you heard about the online sales scam that Martin R. was trying to play on a local business owner?  (If not, read the December 21st post.)  Well, there's something that the wolf wasn't counting on - that this Little Red Riding Hood was going to be a tough target.

The wolf was counting on several factors to make his plan work:

  • A trusted source through which he could present his "problem" for the business owner to solve.
  • Time urgency, which causes some people to take shortcuts in their decision making.
  • Christmas, where even harder hearts turn to thoughts of generosity toward others, giving him higher odds of receiving the benefit of the doubt.  Martin R's claim of deafness would amplify the sympathy factor .
The business owner (from here on called Little Red) saw that there was a flaw in the wolf's request - although he used a trusted referral source through which he placed his order request, the geography didn't make sense.  Why, when the referring company has reps all over the place, would they send a referral two states away?  It's much easier to establish lasting customer relationships when you can have actual contact with them, deliver product right to their site, etc.  (Of course this would have worked counter to the wolf's plot.  Anonymity helped him in his subterfuge.)

Despite some skepticism about the request, Little Red decided to do what any business owner would do.  Red told the wolf she'd help and shared her terms.  She needed a check to pay for the product, and once the check was in hand she'd place the order.  The wolf agreed, and Little Red waited, knowing that her gut told her not to take any action that would place her at financial risk.  She'd let the check clear, Christmas or no Christmas, before she'd order anything.  

The wolf (Martin R) added a couple more manipulative twists to his sob story.  First, Martin's mean boss messed up the check amount, making it out for too MUCH money!  Compounding the problem, Martin was having pre-Christmas plumbing issues, and an "engineer" was waiting with baited breath for payment to start the repair project!  Martin wanted the business owner to deposit the check, pay for the product order,  keep $20 for the trouble and send the balance to the "engineer."  Little Red's radar was screaming by this point.  "This guy must think I'm a moron!" Little Red exclaimed.

The check arrived, via an envelope with courier stickers but not in an official courier envelope.  Hmmm....  It was shipped from FIVE states away and not from Martin R's address.  Little Red opened the envelope.  Not surprisingly, the check wasn't drawn on Martin R's account.   It was drawn on a corporate account SIX states away from Red's location and FOUR states away from the supposed shipping origin.

Fortunately, the check was drawn on a bank that had branch offices in Little Red's home town.  So Red took the check to the bank and presented it, saying, "I have received this check that I believe is fraudulent.  Could you check it out please?"  Lo and behold, the account  had a multitude of different names attached to it, and every check issued by the account was fraudulent.  Little Red handed the chain of emails, the check, and the envelope over to the bank and called it a day, leaving it to the authorities to track Martin R.

As Little Red returned to the office, an email from Martin R was waiting.  "I'm so worried about my check,"  the email read.  "Did it arrive?"  Little Red didn't answer.


Joe Succop said...

good post I applaud those who know better to go the extra dodeligence rather than whining when they are to lazy to check things out and get burnt.

Julie Poland, certified business coach said...

J -

It was amazing to see the number of cues that showed that something dicey was going on. I wonder how many people fall for this sort of thing?