Welcome to part two of the pet sitter scam that someone started with me a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read part one yet, now’s the time to do so, or if you want to cut through the chase and start reading here, just know that someone was trying to pull a scam on me by trying to contract my services and knowing this, I decided to have a little fun with him. But read part one anyway, it’ll probably make more sense!
So here’s where my investigation begins…
… And the fun, not that I don’t have anything better to do than investigate scams, but I’ve been working hard for the past few weeks and needed something to distract me even more.
The first thing I did was run an email header check. This can at least tell you where the person is located, for the most part. I used www.ipaddresslocation.org to find out this information. His email was based in the U.S. Of course, it’s not too difficult to hide that information by using a proxy server or other cloaking device, but this person was suppose to be in Puerto Rico.
Next, I noticed that the FedEx letter was sent from Illinois. I did a reverse address look up via www.whitepages.com to find out who lives at that address. It was not the person on the envelope, nor was it the name of the person trying to scam me. I noticed the envelope also had a phone number attached to it, so again, courtesy of whitepages.com, I did a reverse phone number look up. That number again, did not belong to the person on the envelope or the scammer. Can you say FAKE?
Since the scammer called me and left a message, I did a reverse phone number look up on that number. You guessed it, it was a voip number out of Ohio. I thought he was in Puerto Rico?
Back to the check.
Since the check did have an account holders name on it, I decided to Google them and find out what the deal was. The name was an insurance company in Texas, so it was not too hard to look them up. I called their contact number and told them what was going on. I was told to fax a copy of the check to them which I did. I got a call later that day saying that the check was not one of theirs, but that they would check with the claims department just in case. Again, it was not their check. I figured that, since it was from an insurance company and not a security firm in Puerto Rico! (See? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go back and read part one.)
Now for the bank the check was drawn on. It was Bank of America. I called BofA and told them what was going on. They suggested I go to a local branch and show them the check. I did. The check was confirmed FAKE. Surprisingly, they did not take the check from me.
Just for kicks, I called the hotel that he was suppose to stay in for a month to confirm his reservation, and would you believe it??? No one by that name registered there for those dates. Gee, I hope he doesn’t wait much longer to make that reservation or they might run out of rooms!
Side note: I contacted the FBI internet fraud division and they were not interested. They only get involved AFTER someone has been scammed. As for local Sheriff Department… jurisdiction problems. All they could do was take a report. Looks like I’m on my own.
Back to the scam.
I was instructed to deposit the check into my account and provide proof of deposit “for the accounting department” for proper documentation. (Hack, bullsh&t, cough) I decided to have some more fun. I told the scammer that I went to deposit the check, but that the ATM was out of paper and I couldn’t get a receipt, but not to worry, I have the funds to cover any expenses and I’ll deposit the check the next day.
While I was at it, I asked him why the check was for so much over the amount? He claimed it was for supplies like food, bed, toys etc. and here is what he wanted me to do next:
Go to the local CVS or Walmart and get three Moneypak cards in the amount of $700 each. Then, scrape of the code number on the back (of all three?? and why $700, I’ll never know) and email it to him. Then he would use that to pay for the items and have them shipped to me ahead of time and to “be really careful” with the items as they were expensive. (We all know those plush dog beds break real easy when dropped.) I totally ignored the fact that he wanted almost all the money converted into Moneypak cards and told I’ll take care of it.
I was going to get a card and put .70 cents on it, send it to him, then claim they must have forgotten a few zeros. But, since those cards are used only for reloading prepaid cards, I would have had to buy a minimum of $20. Instead, I told him the store was out of them, but “could I send you a prepaid Visa card for the same amount?” Again, my intent was to leave .70 cents on it and claim to have misplaced a few zeros.
He wrote back (subject line, ALL CAPS) insisting I go to a different store to purchase the cards. He even gave me 3 local addresses of stores that have them. I said “no problem” and sent him about a dozen fake forms to fill out in the mean time. Just a bunch of repetitive personal info to see if he’ll really fill them out and to keep him busy.
So he emails the next day asking if I received his email with the locations of where to buy the cards. I said “yes” and that I’ll need the forms I sent him first. He claims his scanner is broken but that he’ll send them to me soon. This is going on day 12 now and he still thinks I’m going to send him money. OK, let’s do it! I sent him 13 random numbers and said “You really only need one card.” The next day he emails me and says I need one more number. Oops! Must have missed that last number. Darn my big fingers. So I send him all 14 numbers. Don’t panic, I didn’t really buy any Moneypak cards.
As I anxiously await his next email to tell me the card didn’t work, I can’t help but think of how many people get caught up in these types of scams and loose a ton of money in the process. If only there was a way to find and prosecute these scum bags. As I said earlier, the feds are only interested after the fact. How stupid is that?
I finally get his email the next day, sounding a little more irate, (subject line and first paragraph, ALL CAPS) claiming that the card doesn’t work and can I please recheck the numbers as time is of the essence. “Sure, no problem, I understand the need to expedite this quickly.” So, I wait about a day and a half and here’s what I tell him:
“There was no way to check the balance on the card so I had to actually use it to find out what the problem is. I went ahead and reloaded my PayPal account with it and it worked fine. You must have done something wrong or maybe your computer settings are off.” (??? I really don’t know what that means, but it sounds good) “Unfortunately, I can’t reload the card from my PayPal account, so I will have to go back to the store to do it. I’ll get that done tomorrow.”
Day 16 and only two more days left until he’s suppose to be in town.
As much as I would like to have more fun and string this out for a few more weeks or even months, I have to end it. My last correspondence with him went something like this:
“I just got a call from my bank and they said the check was stamped “Invalid – Do Not Cash.” They said something about an improper check or signature or something like that. Either way, I can no longer accept this opportunity to pet sit for your dog. Sorry to leave you in a lurch, but I’m sure you’ll find many competent pet sitters in the area who will be able to help you. My sincere apologies for any inconvenience your bad check may have caused.”
So there you have it, how to have fun with a scammer. I know this isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but I enjoy it. I even replied to a real Nigerian letter several years ago, but they never responded. Maybe I was just a little to eager to “help them” and they didn’t know how to react. Unless you’re feeling adventurous, I would simply take Nikki’s advice (from part one) and just ignore anyone who wants to hire you long term from out of the state.
In all seriousness though, we all need to be careful in how we conduct our businesses and our personal life. We need to watch what we post online, how we respond to emails or even phone calls. There are indiscriminate people all around the world that would like nothing more than to part you from your hard earned money using any means necessary to do so. Always remember: If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is!
If you or someone you know ever get’s scammed then you can check out the info on the following sites. Or better yet, read the tips on these sites ahead of time and be knowledgeable of all the different ways scams work so you can avoid them in the first place:
Coming soon will be a follow up to this whole ordeal as the bank and the insurance company want to investigate this further. They may or may not keep me abreast of everything they do, but I requested that they do. We’ll see.
Update: I never was contacted by the insurance company nor the bank. Oh well.