We Are Easy to Find
Most of us who work with the public attempt to make ourselves easy to contact. Through personalized web sites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on and on, our goal is to get the public to respond to our Call To Action. Most of us have had our credit and debit cards compromised and some of us have had our Facebook accounts hacked. It is alarming to me the amount of dishonesty we deal with on a daily basis in our personal lives and yet don't suspect it in our business lives.
The First Contact
I received a text message from a client one afternoon from someone who called herself Mrs. Carolyn. She stated that she needed an interior designer to do "installation and styling (staging) of items we have just ordered for our new apartment we are moving to." She provided an email address and asked me to contact her, which I did.
The Plot Thickens
Mrs. Carolyn and her husband were moving here from the U.K., with their 7 month old child, and she needed someone to meet the movers and set up their home in advance of their arrival, which she now described as a single family house. She included a list of items, with pictures, that would be delivered to their home and explained that she wanted everything to be set up in advance of their arrival in late December. I noticed that none of the items would accommodate an infant, no crib was mentioned. Later in the email she described the home as a Townhouse, now we were back to it being an apartment. Mrs. Carolyn was very eager to receive a quote from me and get the details settled. She asked if I could accept a certified check. Even with my misgivings, I replied, asking for some additional information, including the address so that I could consider travel time.
The email response I received back included a image of a floor layout, a single level layout, not the townhouse. No address was provided. Many pictures of furniture and even some light fixtures were included. A lot of details about the movers and timelines were provided. I replied with my fees and business address.
Radar On High Alert!
The next reply was a description of how I would receive the certified check via USPS and that there will be some "extra funds" that I would use to compensate the movers. They explained that I should overnight deposit it and wait for it to clear, then I would be able to make use of the funds. At this point I emailed back that I realized this was a fraudulent request. I heard nothing else back.
While we think of certified checks as safe, they can be successfully counterfeited. It can be weeks after you deposit the check before it is identified as counterfeit. In my case, I suspect that the scammer would tell me that they had accidentally made the check out of too much and ask me to refund part of the amount. This article explains how fake certified checks are used by scammers. Facts About Fake Certified Checks
The Need for Vigilance
As much as we want to help people and move our businesses forward, it's so important to listen to that little voice. It is also a good policy to insist on a phone call with potential clients.