Messing with internet scam artists
I’m sure we’ve all either heard about or received one of these internet scam emails. You know, the ones that say they need to send you millions of dollars in an effort to scam you out of your hard earned money. It seems that these have gotten so much press that it’s hard to get people these days to fall for them. This blog is to make you aware of at least two of the new things they’re doing, and tell you my story about how they appear to be branching out to newer and better scams so you don’t fall for them. And how I tried my best to turn the tables, at least a little bit, to waste some of their time and money. If we all do this, perhaps we can frustrate them to the point at least some of them will go away…
It all started this February when I lost my beloved Rottweiler Tank (some of you may remember him from “The Dog Whisperer” episode he was on). After some time, I was ready to get another Rottie so I turned to the internet. Getting a new Rottie puppy is harder and more expensive than you might think. But after scouring the internet I found a person who had some puppies for sale at a reasonable price.
But then alarm bells started going off. I started asking questions. He wanted payment by money gram and would not accept PayPal which protects purchasers. I could not send a check. Money gram or money order only. I asked which company he uses to ship the puppy. He could not name one but assured me the puppy would be there tomorrow. The picture of the puppy he sent I also found on another breeders advertisement. He was a scam. And it pissed me off to no end. He was using my heartache to scam me out of my money. A little research online and it became obvious that this is one of their new scams. It was then that I vowed if it ever happened again, I was going to do something.
And it didn’t take long for the opportunity…
As many of you know, I am also an artist. I sell my art mostly online at www.GingerLynnArt.com. Well for some reason this proved irresistible to the scammers and they targeted me yet again.
I’m going to include here most of the back and forth emails over the last month. I encourage everyone who is contacted to waste as much of these peoples time and money as possible. And my hope is that my story might at least help someone else out there from falling for any of this garbage.
It all started on July 2, 2017. Now I get a lot of email inquiries through my website every day. And I always respond personally to each and every one. I think art is a personal thing and it deserves a personal touch. Here is his first email:
” Greetings,My name is Nathan from New York.. I actually observed my wife has been viewing your website on my laptop and i guess she likes your piece of work, I'm also impressed and amazed to have seen your various works too,You are doing a great job. I would like to receive further information about your piece of work and what inspires you.. Kindly confirm the availability for immediate sales..”
Now I get a lot of emails from overseas from people for whom English is not their first language. This person is obviously one and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. But each of my paintings has a number associated with it and he was not asking about a specific piece. So I asked him which piece or pieces he may be interested in. And ignored the creepy factor of going through his wife’s browser history…
His response the next day was:
Thanks for getting back to me, it could be any color, but medium size
or large.. However, I would greatly appreciate if you could possibly
recommend a few completed piece with in $1000- $15,000 ready for
sale...Please do email me back with images and prices of any available
works in that range
Now I may be a successful artist, but I don’t have any paintings that approach the $15,000 price range. This seemed odd to me. He wanted to buy some of my most expensive pieces, but didn’t have any in mind. Okay. I’ve had odd inquiries before and I’ll probably have them again. So I sent him photos of some of my signature pieces. I did not include prices since I didn’t know which ones he may like.
Two days later I received this response:
Thanks for the message.. I must tell you I intend to give my wife a
surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece. Also If you'd like
to know, I'm relocating to the Philippines soon and our wedding
anniversary is fast approaching. So I'm trying to gather some good
stuff to make this event a surprise one..I'm okay with those painting
(Caramel and Shogun) and i will want you to get back to me the price
,so I'll be sending a check...As regarding shipping, you don't have to
worry about that in order not to leave any clue to my wife for the
surprise. as soon as you receive and cash the check, my shipping agent
(who is also moving my personal effect) will contact you to arrange
pick-up I would have come to purchase the piece myself but, at the
moment, am on training voyage to the North Atlantic Ocean (I'm an
ocean engineer) with new hires who are fresh from graduate school and
won't be back for another couple of weeks..
PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your full name (you
want the check payable to) cell phone no. and contact address
(preferably for USPS OR UPS not P.O box) where a check can be mailed
to so I can get the check prepared and have it mailed out to you
Now this didn’t include my name. Almost like he copied and pasted and got lazy. And he chose two paintings without knowing the prices since I hadn’t included that in my last email. This is when more alarm bells starting going off. He wanted my address and cell phone number before he even found out the prices? Not going to happen. This was beginning to smell like a scam. But I still wasn’t quite sure. Weirder things have happened. I thought the anniversary angle was a nice touch.
And later that same day I got this email:
“Hello kindly acknowledge my last mail.... Okay”
A bit annoying since he took two days to respond to my last one, but hey, I’m the one selling something right? But this turned out to be a trend. I responded with the prices of the two pieces and my PO Box address to send a check should he choose to purchase them.
Later that same day I got this response:
“Dear, Thanks for the details which I've noted down, My wife handles the family credit card/bank issues, and in order not to leave any clue to her for the surprise, I've contacted a client of mine to issue out a check which will include my shipping fund agent fee to you, but courtesy demand I must first appeal to your self interest and ask for your help in remitting the overage(after deducting your fee for the piece ) to the shipping agent as soon as the check clears....
I would have handled this differently I'd be at home but am bit pressed for time of our anniversary is fast approaching and do not have access to slot of cash over here to expedite this transaction...... Trying to kill two birds with a stone.Kindly deduct any IRS tax incurred on the overage before giving the balance to the shipping agent. They are not sending any bill or hold you responsible for the payment of my shipping contract with them...
I am really sorry for the mix up and will aprreciate if you get back to me asap to know if I can entrust you with my fund and this transaction......
Many thanks and talk to you soon”
Ok, this is when it became obvious it was a scam. The check would be coming from someone else. It will be for more than the cost of the paintings. He wants me to give the excess to his shipping agent. And is magnanimous enough to allow me to deduct any taxes incurred. Pretty much the definition of these internet scams. I knew the check would be no good, or fake. And now I was pissed again. I had already wasted my time on this guy so I was ready to turn the tables and waste as much of his time as possible. And see if there was any way to make him come out of pocket in the process. This might be fun…
And as if I weren’t pissed enough already, later than same day I got his email from him:
“Hello MA, kindly acknowledge my last mail asap...Thank”
Now I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but “MA” was never one of them. Not quite sure what that was. I can only assume it was from the last email he sent to someone else and he just copied and pasted it into his email to me. Sloppy… Game on buddy…
It was then I decided to drag this on as long as I possibly could. You want to waste my time and try and steal my money? Let’s see how much of your time I can waste. Let’s see how gullible YOU are!
“Hi Nathan,Yes you can trust me of course. When are your shipping agents going to pick up the paintings?”
“Dear, Thanks for he swift response I will update you with the tracking as soon the check has been mailed out...Thanks for your concern operation.. God will bless you.
Let the messing with internet scam artists begin! If he was going to send me a bad check, then that was going to cost him money. Sweet. Let’s see what his response would be to PayPal (which protects both parties) or even a cash payment. What would his response to that be? I responded:
“May God bless you too Nathan. I'm so excited! Given your timing on this, it might be easier if you just send the cash or pay with PayPal. Perhaps your company could do this. Or your shipping company could bring the payment? I'd hate for you to miss this wonderful surprise for your wife and I want to do everything I can to make sure that I can help you do that for your anniversary. Please let me know what I can do!”
Not surprisingly he said:
“HelloThanks for the effort in making this a reality.. As I told you earlier My wife handles the family credit card/bank issues, and in order not to leave any clue to her for the surprise...thats is the reason am sending check as a medium of payment....Thanks.
Get back to me to know your thoughts.”
Ok, so the whole scam is predicated on a bad check that I have to refund a portion of in actual real money to one of his accomplices. What would happen if I actually offered to send the paintings to him BEFORE I got a bad check? Let’s find out. I wrote:
“Would it make more sense for me to send the paintings before you made payment? That way there is no chance your wife will find out about it before you surprise her! Then I can just wait for your check. What do you think about that? I would be willing to do that if you want. Thanks,Ginger”
Not surprisingly he said:
“HelloI appreciate your concern... I will wait till you have your money at hand.....I think this is the normal protocol for any business...Before next week Thursday I hope everything work as planned... Thanks”
So, I need the bad check in hand for this to work. Got it. I’ll include the next few emails without much commentary. Other than asking exactly how much the check will be for, it’s just an annoying back and forth over a few days.
“Hello This is to plead for the delay...the check will be mailed first thing Monday morning... Kindly get back to me to know if we are still together or not... Thanks
“I'm happy to wait Nathan. I just hope they arrive before your anniversary. How much is the check going to be?”
“Hello, In reponse to your response, I will be sending a check of $12500 which will cover the fee for the piece and other charges you are entitled to..... the remaining balance is going to the shipper as he will also helping me move some of my properties along with the piece nearby your location.......Thanks”
“Hello, Happy Sunday just want to know if you got my last mail???”
Ok, now we’re to the point where he’s actually sending the bad check. We’re ten days into this by now mind you. He says:
Hello Ginger Lynn Allen ,How are you doing? and thanks so much for keeping in-touch.. I
just want to inform you that the check will be delivered to you
anytime soon and here is the USPS tracking number
(XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX) for confirmation, you can easily get it track
via www.usps.com to know when exactly it will be delivered to
you.Anyway, as soon as you receive the check, kindly take the check to
your Bank and get it deposited, i have already been informed that the
check will get cleared in your account within 1 or 2 business days,
but in some exceptional cases the funds are available immediately.
You would please recall that I explained in my email earlier that my
shipper is also helping me move some of my properties along with the
piece. So, the balance on the check is to cover the shipping fees as
agreed. Kindly email me ASAP, so I can give you the shipper's information and
instructions on how to remit the balance to the shipper.. My Shipper
will contact you to make arrangement for an appropriate time for the
Pick Up of the Piece asap...
So here we go. Now he’s out of pocket for the cost of sending me a bad check. At least that’s something. And I’ve wasted more if his time. Me, I’m just having fun at this point. Seeing how long I can just string him along. Not much longer I assume but who knows? The bad check is supposed to be here in a couple of days so I waited for it. Over the next 36 hours I got these emails:
“Hello, Good morning, how was your night? Kindly acknowledge my last mail...Thanks”
“Hello, Good morning,how was your night?according to the USPS update Alert.....the package has been delivered to address you gave kindly get in touch once you have it picked...Thanks”
“Hello Kindly give a response....why the silence? If you know you cannot sell me these piece the reply back...as soon as possible before I put a stop on the cheque I mailed you... T”
I responded that I just hadn’t picked up the check yet and I would let him know when I do. At this point he got a little attitude. Now that might work with other people he thinks he has on the hook, but it’s like he doesn’t know me at all. Over the next 24 hours here’s the email exchange:
“Dear, Thanks for the immediate reply... I will like you to know i won't like any delay from your part... As you know my wedding anniversary is fast approaching...I will like you to please make it faster and let me know your plans today... So as to reschedule date for pick up.”
“I will pick up and deposit the check today. Once the check has cleared I will let you know.”
“Hello, Once done with the deposit, kindly send me the deposit slip for confirmation... So as to know how to confuse the shipper... Thanks”
“Why do you need a copy of the deposit slip? That would include my account information which I do not provide to anyone. And I don't understand what that has to do with the shipper?”
“Hello I just want to be sure...when the deposit is done... You can use a pen to shade your secret informations..To avoid that.. As I don't need it nighter.... Thanks”
“Why do you need it at all?”
“Hello I don't have anything to do with it... I just want to know if the Deposit as been done...Thanks”
“I'll let you know when it clears the bank then....Thanks”
“Hello Good morning Ginger... Kindly update me asap...”
So at this point I’ve picked up the bad check. Now if you recall, he said the check would be for $12,500. Way in excess of the amount of the paintings, and I specifically asked him what the amount of the check was going to be. Remember, he’s expecting me to give the excess to his “shipper” at this point in real actual money. Well….the fake check was in the amount of $22,700. Almost twice the amount he said it was going to be. I guess he was looking to scam me out of more money than he thought he could at the beginning. So here we go. Let’s find out if he even knows how much the check was for.
ed I will let you know. t it' . a couple of days so I waited for it. Over the next 36 hours I got these emails:
se and hMe:
I did pick up a check yesterday. It was a different amount than what you said it would be so I want to make sure that it was the check for the painting. Can you please verify the amount of the check and who it came from so I make sure this is yours and not from someone else.”
“Hello. The check is from me and the amount on it is $20700...I have decided to include another piece of shogun. Making it 2.....Thanks Looking forward to hearing from you..
And then of course a few hours later:
“Hello, Kindly acknowledge my last mail....Thanks
Well the check was not from him. I won’t say the name on it, but it was not him. Despite his claim to the contrary. And of course the amount was $22,700 and not $20,700. I mean, how do you not know how much you’re paying for something? Really? And he tries to explain it away by saying that he’s buying two of the Shogun paintings. You know, an original. Like they’re two originals somehow. At this point I don’t think he even knew how large of a check was sent. Someone else in his organization must have sent it thinking they could get more money out of me if they did. Well this should be fun.
“Ok, I'm glad I asked. The check I got was not that amount, and it did not come from you. Though the amount was close so I'm a little confused. If it is from you, how much are you paying for the artwork, and how much for the shipping etc? I don't understand. How do you not know how much the check was for if in fact this is your check?
I look forward to hearing back from you.”
Let’s see what he says…
“Oh! It was a mistake from me the amount on it is $22700...That was a typing error from me... I typed that while driving.. Okay?? “
Now remember, this is from a guy who told me at the beginning of this that he was in the North Atlantic Ocean? Kinda hard to drive in the ocean I would think. I have to assume that he has so many people he’s stringing along that he can’t keep all his stories straight. Bad move. At this point I’m curious as to how much he remembers about this particular scam. So I ask him how much is for just the two paintings. Without revealing prices, suffice to say that he wanted two of the original Shogun pieces (not sure how he expected that to happen) and was including an additional $10,000 that I was to refund to his “shipper”.
So I asked him:
“But there is only one Shogun? I'm confused.”
I was really interested in what his response would be. Would this be the end? Would he figure out he was caught in the scam? Of course not...
“Hello We can handle this...You can include any piece to make it $XXXXX...Kindly recommend one and let me know asap the one to be added... Thanks”
So let me get this straight. You want me to pick any painting. Any painting at all, that makes the total of your check make sense. And just let you know which one you’re buying? Seriously? And somehow you still think you have any credibility whatsoever? Man, you are really invested in this aren’t you? Sweet!
“Hello Good morning Ginger... How was your night? Kindly acknowledge my last mail...I want this pieces before next week Thursday... So that my plans can work out as I have explained to you earlier...As My wedding anniversary is knocking at the door I want to make sure I finalise all transactions because I will be busy during this period.... Thanks”
Well at least he started calling me by my name. That’s something I suppose…
I should mention here that I had already gone to the bank and verified that the check was fake. In their words “This is the definition of fake”. And it was a “Cashier’s Check”. Something supposedly as good as cash.
At this point I’m wondering how much longer I can string him along. I mean it’s got to have run its course by now right? What more can I do? And then I got an idea…
Please please forgive me I beg you. I went to go to the bank yesterday and I have somehow lost the check that you sent! I was in the hospital for the past two days with back issues. And somehow while I was in the hospital I lost the check. I know how busy you are and your anniversary is soon but I beg to ask if you could possibly send a replacement check? I will do whatever you ask to make sure your anniversary is the best it can be. I will happily include an extra painting for the problem and you can decrease the amount of the check to $20,000 if that helps.
I'm so sorry, but I cannot find the check. If I do find it I promise I will destroy it or return it to you if you want.
I hope you understand and apologize again!”
Maybe I can get him to actually come out of pocket again to send another fraudulent check? I know its nickels and dimes, but it all adds up if we all do it. Let’s see shall we?
Here is the back and forth that followed:
“Hello, How is your health now? I believe nobody is above mistake... So it's not a problem to rewrite another check..I will be mailing another check first thing Monday morning....I will also like you to make things faster when you finally receive the new check. Thanks and do take care of yourself.. I pray that God will strengthen you (Amen)
“Dear, Once again I wish you quick recovery from your back pain...As I have written to you earlier.. I have cancelled the previous check, so whenever you see it..you can rip it... I have already contacted my mailer to mail another check with total sum of $15000 which will cover the cost for the shogun and caramel. As soon as you receive it kindly make it Deposited Overnight...so that It could clear within 24 hours......so I can give you the shipper's information and instructions on how to remit the balance to the shipper.. My Shipper
will contact you to make arrangement for an appropriate time for the pick Up of the Piece asap...Thanks.
Looking forward to hearing from you... “
“Hello Kindly acknowledge my last mail asap...”
“Hi Nathan, Yes I received the email. Thank you SO MUCH for your patience with me. I cannot apologize enough for the problems. I am waiting for the replacement check now, and as soon as I get it I will take it to the bank. I'm not sure what you mean by "Deposited Overnight" though. There is only one way for me to deposit a check but I will do it as soon as I receive it. You can have your shipper contact me so that I can remit the balance to him when he comes to pick up the paintings. I already have them all packed up for you! I hope you enjoy them!
And I beg your forgiveness again for all the problems!!!!
“Kindly get back to me with your cell phone number... Okay??? “
Notice that in one of these emails it’s so obviously cut and pasted as the fonts change. Such a lazy scammer…
Now I don’t give out my cell phone number to many people. And certainly not to this guy. I told him as much and he seemed fine with that.
So…four days later he gets back.
“Hello. According to the tracking number XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX the check has been delivered to the address you gave me..
Kindly update me on the progress asap..Thanks”
And a short time later, the by now obligatory follow-up.
“Hello. Kindly acknowledge my Last mail..
I told him I would of course check my mail asap to pick up the check. And then asked him what arrangements he needs me to make.
“As soon as you deposit it ..... Kindly email me ASAP when it clears, so I can give you the shipper's information and instructions on how to remit the balance to the shipper.. My Shipper will contact you to make arrangement for an appropriate time for thePick Up of the Piece asap...Thanks.”
At this point I’m trying my best to figure out all the angles here. I’m curious about how the whole “shipper” thing is going to work. And I’m really interested in why he keeps asking about letting him know when the check “clears” at my bank. He and I both know the check will not clear the bank. It’s as fake as fake can be after all.
Now let’s review some relevant facts. The first check came with a return address of a very well-known company in the defense industry. The second check came from some gold and diamond company. Now he had said that he was going to have a “client” send the check so I suppose he considers himself covered there. Why exactly an “ocean engineer” would have these sorts of clients willing to write checks in these amounts on his behalf, is I suppose, a question he assumes nobody would ask.
I looked up the return address of the first check from the defense contractor. It was for a private school in Massachusetts. I looked up the return address for the replacement check from the gold and diamond company and it was, in fact, a “gold and diamond” company in New Jersey. It was a retail jewelry store. I didn’t bother to call them to see if they had ever heard of Nathan. I knew the answer.
Now while the first check was a “cashiers check” in the name of a real bank, the second check was not a cashiers check. The second check sent from the “gold and diamond” company in New Jersey, was “in the name of” a real company in Baltimore Maryland. Jeez, this is getting complicated. I have to assume he thinks no one will notice things like this. And here’s the really funny part. While the name of the bank on the second check was a real bank, the complete address of the bank as listed on the check is, I kid you not:
“123 Bank Road”
No city, no state, no zip code, and evidently no thought.
At this point I went back to my bank with both checks. I had to figure out how Nathan thought this was going to work. And I did.
My bank verified that both checks were of course fake. But, explained to me that if I had just deposited them, no questions asked, if I was a good customer they would ok the funds for withdrawal within a very short period of time. I could take all the money out and then when the bank determined the checks were no good, be responsible for making good on any money I had withdrawn. And that’s evidently how this works. That’s why Nathan keeps asking me to let him know when the check “clears” the bank. He knows he only has a short period of time between when the bank says I have access to that money, and when the bank lets me know that it was a fake check. This is his window of opportunity and should be something everyone out there is aware of. Please spread the word.
I should add that the second check came with a printed note as follows:
“Here is the check payment mailed out to you. Immediately you receive this check text this #xxx-xxx-xxxx firstly before proceeding with the check to have it deposit to cash for verification and also for further procedure with this information listed below.
Check number for authentication
Total amount of the check”
I’m not sure how exactly this plays into the scam but can only assume that it’s some way for them to keep track of all the people they have on the hook. Suffice to say I did not text that number…
I did respond with:
“Ok, I went to the bank today so let me know what you need me to do next. Feel free to have your shipper contact me so I can make sure the paintings arrive in time for your anniversary! I know your time is short so I want to do whatever I can to make sure this all works out!!! I hope your wife is surprised and happy with what you're doing.”
I mean I’m still on the hook, right? I got this response within the hour:
“Hello, Thanks for your prompt response and concern... Kindly update once the check has cleared into your account...i have sent your mail to the shipper...According to their protocol I will need to send the receipt of payment..So as soon as the fund as been remitted you will be sending me the receipt so that I can present it to them for quick pick up of the pieces... Kindly confirm the place of pick up.Thanks”
So he’s much quicker in his responses now as he know the window is closing. And for some reason he’s still insistent that I send him the deposit information or verification according to the shippers “protocol” now. Not going to happen. But I doubt that will be any sort of roadblock here. I told him I was still waiting to hear from my bank, and got this response:
“Hello.. I will like to know how long it will take the check to clear???..And also I have sent your mail to the shipper yesterday an they said they will get to you at their own convenient time.....Kindly check on your balance to know when the fund is available....I will also contact you as soon as I have been debited by my bank asap...I hope I get this pieces this week.. Thanks.”
So I think we’re coming to a close here. I don’t really know how much longer I can string him along since I’ve said I deposited the check. I didn’t think I could get away with saying I’d lost the second check as well. Now’s the time to figure out his end game. So I responded:
“Hi Nathan, I checked with my bank and the funds are available to me now! Please please let me know what I need to do now. I know the time is short for your anniversary and I want to make sure I do all I can to fulfill your wishes to make it special and surprise your wife!!!
I still have not heard from your shipper though with his instructions!”
And that’s where we stand as I write. We’ll see if he’s smart enough to notice this. Somehow I doubt it… I think I have HIM on the hook at this point. But I’m curious, you know? Ultimately I’ll send the “how stupid do you think I am” email and I am seriously curious to see if he even responds to it. I’ll let you know with updates to the story.
But as much fun as this has been, I’ve invested a great deal of time on this. And I’ve done it so that I can share all the details with the world. If I can save just ONE person from falling for this scam, or convince 100 people to waste the scammers time like I have, maybe, just maybe, it’s time well spent. That’s my hope. Please share this with as many people as you can. I think it’s worth it.
In a total “in your face” gesture I’m planning on doing a piece that includes the fake checks in the painting. I just haven’t decided what it’s going to be yet, so stay tuned…