Last week, a small-money check scam landed in Kennewick… on my kitchen counter. It started off fairly believable, then turned sideways right before my daughter got the check. By that point, we were laughing out loud at the whole situation. Literally. LOL.
It started a few weeks ago when someone by the name of Mark Morgan reached out to my daughter on Craigslist to see if she would be able to play the piano at their wedding. She thought that would be great, since she loves playing the piano and is always looking for ways to overcome the whole “starving musician” stereotype. However, because she is a new Craigslist user, she didn’t fully appreciate the need to make sure it’s not one of the more-common scams.
In online business deals, you should always be on the lookout for what I call “yellow flags”. These aren’t necessarily very obvious, but when taken together become a “red flag” and set off fraud alerts. They are especially visible in online communications. See if you can spot any yellow flags in the following email:
How are you doing today, i want to make an inquiry if you will be available to perform Piano at my wedding ceremony. Laura and I will tie the knot on May 15, 2021 by 1pm at a private residence in Kennewick, Washington. Will you be able to perform either Live, Pre recording or Zoom. We are expecting maximum guests of 15 and all Coronavirus safety protocols will be adhered to. There will be social distancing and all guests will be wearing a mask. The ceremony is just an hour and you will be expected to play Prelude 7 minutes, Processional 2 minutes, Recessional 2minutes, postlude 10 minutes.
Let me know if you are available and how much is your fee. Which of the medium will be OK for you to perform (Live, Pre recording or Zoom).
Hope to read from you as soon as possible.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve counted at least 15 grammatical errors that aren’t common among fellows with a name like “Mark Morgan”. I won’t bore you with the details, but the worst of all were “Which of the medium will be OK for you to perform” and “Hope to read from you as soon as possible”. Oh, and ending with “My regard”? Add it all up and you have typical James Veitch scam material right there. Anyway, they went back and forth for a while and agreed upon $250 for the performance, but by that point the May 15 date was too late and was no longer on the table. Not to worry though, because there was an explanation.
How are you doing today, My fiancée lost her brother yesterday night the family are in deep mourning period. We both family decide we should shift the wedding to allow the family enough time to mourn (Laura brother), I want to apologize for the inconvenience this will cause you and i’m ready to compensate you. Lets fix it for either of the following date May 21,22, 23. Also the volunteer send me a mail that the Check was delayed due to bad weather but the Check will deliver to your mailbox as soon… Thanks
They were in a deep mourning period, so they postponed the wedding for a week?! Ok, this is getting more strange every minute.
The check is in the mail
Of course, when she got the check, everything was just wrong. First of all, the check amount was for $1,850. That was way in excess of the agreed-upon price, and who makes a mistake on a cashier’s check? No one. The banker double and triple checks the amount before issuing the check because the cash is automatically withdrawn from your account. Second, the check was written from Neighbors Federal Credit Union but was payable through Bank of Oklahoma. What in the world? And last, the return address for the envelope was to some random business in California. This multi-state (sometimes multi-country) web is one of the many ways that these scammers are able to cloud the issue and run away with the cash of those who fall prey to the fraud.
Naturally, my daughter did not attempt to cash the check, which would have been followed with “please wire me the difference”. By that point, she had learned a few lessons. One is to treat all Craigslist correspondence as a possible scam. The second is to pretend like you are an English teacher when you are responding to email from unknown third parties and look for irregularities. Third, don’t give out your personal information to someone who is contacting you online without doing some basic research like verifying their name, address, or place of employment. And lastly, don’t let your desire for something to be real cloud the fact that it is quite the opposite.
I hope you enjoyed this little saga, but I’m here to warn you: if you aren’t careful, something like this could happen to you. If it does, I trust you will avoid a “deep mourning period” by remembering our dear friend Mark Morgan.