Scam Alert for Interior Designers and Home Stagers

By
Home Stager with Polished Pillars Staging LLC

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.

The Rub

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. 


 

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​This Blog article was written by Patti Robinson, owner of Polished Pillars Staging, LLC, which specializes in Staging Consultations, Occupied Staging and Vacant Home Staging in the Dayton and Cincinnati Ohio areas.
 
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Anonymous
Kat

I also received a text from "Nora Jones" the with a request for my email about staging a home in listed town and the address would be provided. I texted my email. The first email had many red flags: bad grammar, typos, "I am the hearing impaired lady", a request to email back to "her son's email because her email wasn't coming up for some reason, she was going through a horrible divorce, etc. The next email listed a different town for the home that needed staging. Again, the email had red flags: bad grammar, typos, a lengthy continuous run on sentence, and was written all in lower case. The "client" wrote that the property wasn't listed ( but I checked, it has an MLS#), she first said house was empty, but then requested that she would need me to meet the mover on a certain day to propose a quote for furniture rental & staging needs, etc. I believe if I replied it would quickly advance to a request if I would take a certified check for my services. I reported email as spam and will not reply. Thanks for posting about this scam for other interior designers and stagers.Best,Kat

Dec 06, 2017 04:03 AM #13
Rainer
24,859
Patti Robinson
Polished Pillars Staging LLC - Lebanon, OH
Always Keeping Design in Mind

This scam just won’t die, will it?! I am glad to help, as I was helped when it happened to me. We have to educate each other, it’s the only way to combat the scammers, and sometimes it’s still not enough.

Dec 06, 2017 04:52 AM #14
Rainer
2,800
Carrie Miller
School of Home Staging - Portland, OR
Home Staging Training & Certification for Realtors

Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to pass a warning on to all of the stagers on my contact list.

Jan 09, 2018 04:48 PM #15
Anonymous
Abbi

I just recently experienced a similar scam. I contacted a "Dr. Marion Lindseth" in need of a housekeeper, on Craigslist. "She" was very generous in the amount she would pay for just 2 days of work a week, 2 hours per day. She also gave me a lot of information about herself and her family that i didnt need, such as her favorite color and how much she loved her husband. It was strange that she trusted me off the bat to come into her home without ever meeting me. Even stranger, her grammar seemed to change on a day to day basis, as I stayed in contact with her for 3 days, not realizing until the 3rd, that it was all a scam. She said she would send a check to me ahead of time so i could go out and purchase food and stuff for the new house, but also to secure my services. That right there was a huge red flag. I looked up her name on google, and sure enough, the name she had provided was already known to be used for similar scams. So glad i caught it!

Jan 25, 2018 07:00 PM #16
Rainer
24,859
Patti Robinson
Polished Pillars Staging LLC - Lebanon, OH
Always Keeping Design in Mind

Hi Abbi,

I’m glad you smelled a rat! The variations of this scam never cease to amaze.

 

 

 

 

Jan 25, 2018 07:07 PM #17
Anonymous
Carol

I received this text last week...Hi,I'm Grace I got your contact on houzz . I need an interior decorator to do styling (staging) of items we have just ordered in our new apartment we are moving to next month. Kindly email me at (gracemike453@gmail.com) for more details.Thank youDid not sound right but I sent an email for more details. I was told it was a SF home with 3BR/3BA. Family of 4, their professions, list of what they ordered along with an address. It was a 877 sq ft apt. I contacted the list agent and while on vacation she looked into this. Confirmed my suspension that this was a scam

Feb 18, 2018 04:33 AM #18
Anonymous
Diana

Just received a text from "Mrs. Kate Pierce." Same story, decorator/installation, etc. When someone in 2018 refers to themselves as
"Mrs." it's a pretty big red flag. Also, ALWAYS look for the word "kindly," as it's almost guaranteed a scam. Sad that they're trolling Houzz for victims. Sadder for them that we're all savvy to their game. I blocked the number.

Feb 26, 2018 05:55 PM #19
Anonymous
Filro

Mrs Kate Pierce also contacted me. She even sent pictures of her family. Washington DC moving my from London UK. Kayepierce3333@gmail.com Her writing style is oddly worded drawing attention to the scam

Mar 01, 2018 06:19 PM #20
Anonymous
Filro

I really appreciate your response and I'm glad to read from you. I'm Kate Pierce, I'm married and I have a 6 months old son, Michael. I am a Graphic Artist, I work independently. I get hired by advertisement agencies, printers, etc It's a good job. My husband is a Software Developer and System Engineer, we are moving back to the States from London, UK because he just secured a contract and he's to resume third week in April 2018.We have ordered for the furniture and home appliances, so all we need you to do is to make use of our supplies to do the interior decorating (furniture and electronics layout, artwork placement, kitchen utensils placements etc) once the orders are delivered. I can send you images of the ordered items and also the floor plan. House description: 2 br, 2 bath single family house. One assigned parking space. Luxurious master suite, open-concept chef's kitchen with granite counters, ss appliances, skylight, custom cabinetsIt's a single family house 2 bedrooms and 2 bathsFireplace Type: Living RoomCooling: Central CoolingHeating: Heat Pump Electric# Fireplaces: 1Fireplace: 1, Living RoomDining Area Level: EntryKitchen Level: EntryDimensionWidth : 26' Depth : 47'Height : 22'AreaMain Floor Sq Ft : 960 sq ft Total Sq Ft : 1600 sq ft *Ceiling Ft : 8'The paintings have been done so you don't need to worry about that. Where is your location or city? I would like to know how much you are willing to charge for your services and if you accept Certified Check for payment. I would appreciate it if you can get back to us soonest because we really want things sorted before our arrival, our arrival date is Wednesday, April 4th, 2018.I look forward to your response soonest.Have a great and wonderful time ahead.Mrs. K. Pierce.

Mar 01, 2018 06:25 PM #21
Anonymous
Pascale

Hi,I received today 9th April 2018 the email copied below and some alarm bells starting ringing, maybe the fact that I am an interior designer based in London and the description “two storey duplex” is hardly used in the UK, especially by a client, furthermore there is no contact details nor any info ref where the “site” is located. No request to know my fees that by the way are not featured on my website, also I notice that the email is from Amelia Alastair “to” Amillia.Alastair@icloud.com, I spotted Amelia is spelt with 2 L in the email address and with 1 L in the signature. Furthermore a bit suspicious about the phrase “site visit and discuss better” grammar please! Anyway I google “scam email to interior designer” and stambled onto this forum. I have no idea how this scam would work, maybe they will send me aome attachments that when opened will corrupt my account with a virus, Does anyone has an idea? Maybe I will attempt a reply to see where this is going...This is the email from Amelia AlastairHi, My name is Amelia AlastairMy husband and I have visited your website and agreed to employ your skills for our new build.We are looking to build a two storey duplex with a garage. We are in need of good builders/joiners and interior designers. Detailed plans and drawings are already in place. Structural calculations done and other permissions approved. We can send it over for you to look at if you are available to quote. After which we will arrange a phone call to schedule a site visit and discuss better. We look forward to hearing from you soon.RegardsAmelia Alastair

Apr 09, 2018 06:29 AM #22
Anonymous
patricia robinson

Pascale, this is what happens in the US:

”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
.”If you have a similar payment method, perhaps it can be counterfeited?

Apr 09, 2018 08:24 AM #23
Anonymous
Maizie

I received a text yesterday with the same thing...

Hi,I'm Lucie,I got your contact on houzz Kindly email me at luciehoward1089@gmail.com I need an interior decorator to do styling (staging) of items we have just ordered in our new apartment we are moving to next month. Thank you.

Even though my guard went up, I emailed back ...this was her response back to me...

Hello,

Sorry for the late response I really appreciate your response in details and I'm glad to read from you. Once again my name is Lucie Howard,I attended Texas School for the Deaf where i achieved my highest qualification. I have my own business (Self Employed). I attend the catholic 34yrs and i am hard of hearing. I work based on the development and counseling of the deaf people in the community, I'm married and I have a two boys 7 months baby and 3yrs, John. My husband is a Software Developer and System Engineer, We are in the process of relocating to your area with my husband who based in London, UK he just secured a good job here and he's to resume second-week of (May 14th, 2018).


House description: 2 br, 1 bath with custom woodwork throughout. One assigned parking space. Luxurious master suite, open-concept chef's kitchen with granite counters, ss appliances, skylight, custom cabinets

Fireplace Type: Living Room
Cooling: Central Cooling
Heating: Heat Pump Electric
# Fireplaces: 1
Fireplace: 1, Living Room
Dining Area Level: Entry
Kitchen Level: Entry

We have ordered for the furniture and home appliances, so all we need you to do is to make use of our supplies to do the interior decorating (furniture and electronics layout, artwork placement, kitchen utensils placements etc) once the orders are delivered. I do not have the floor-plan yet but I will try and get it soonest.

Below are the items my husband ordered, I'll see if I can get the rest to you but these are the major ones:

Belmont Twelve Light Chandelier -3
Curtain Panels -5
Floor Pillow - 3
Window treatments - 3
Rug for living room 5' by 6' in size - 1
Collage wall hanging picture frame - 2
Traverse Semi-Flush Ceiling Fan - Brushed Steel 3
Maroneia TV Stand -1
3 Piece Coffee Table Set - 1
Chair and Ottoman Set - 1
5 Piece Dining Set - 1
Diamond Upholstery Panel Bed- 3
Duvet Set - 3
3 Piece Bath Rug Set
Cookware Sets
Bath linens and mirrors

The paintings have been done so you don't need to worry about that. Where is your location or city? and I would like to know how much you are willing to charge for your services and if you accept certified check for payment. I would appreciate it if you can get back to us soonest because we really want things sorted before our arrival, our arrival date is May,10th .Please kindly get back to me with your location or address so that i can know how far or near you are to me thanks.

I look forward to your response soonest.

Mrs Lucie Howard...

Again, guard still open I replied. Not giving any specific information about me personally...her final email is below...

Thanks for keeping in touch,
Just to let you know the Drapery installer and Electrician for the light chandeliers, furniture pieces ie.tables , we bought the house and we the right ownership since April 12th. also chairs etc have been taken care of..guess your job has been made easier..the furniture movers will assist in the placement of furniture.yours is just to styling (staging) and make sure everything is done effectively and i want you to take care of the delivery. I will try and send you the remaining items that were ordered once I have the list. I have spoken with my husband since the pay is reasonable he is ready to pay so nothing will be delayed once the items are delivered . I will send you details of the delivery . I hope you will be able to get the work done in a day but if not no problem.

We would like you to be there when the items will be delivered so you can have access in and can start your work at once. The items will be delivered by the movers on May 8th, I will provide you with more details regarding the delivery. The delivery team will be responsible for carrying all the furniture and other items in so you don't have to worry about that.

I need you to email me your payment information (name in full, front door/mailing address in full and a number we can reach you on). I will be waiting to read from you soonest so we can proceed. I hope you will be able to complete the project in a day or 2 days?

Have a great and wonderful night ahead.

Mrs. Lucie Howard...

EVERYONE Be aware!!!!

Apr 14, 2018 10:34 AM #24
Anonymous
Jennifer

I just had the same thing happen. She said her name was Lucie Howard, from the UK, moving to an apartment with 2 babies and her husband. I drove by the place (it's a house) and I got suspicious because she used strange words that English speaking people wouldn't use and she was bossy and adamant. When she asked me to pay for her movers up front while we waited for the check to clear, I figured it was a scam. Bye bye, Lucie, and thank you so much for this website. It clarified the whole thing before anything bad happened and I lost money. Thanks

Apr 30, 2018 03:17 PM #25
Anonymous
Alene Jackson

Here is my second email from someone named Emily Smith soliciting me through houzz Pro. The first one was an identical email from a deaf woman and she disappeared when I told her I need to speak to someone on the phone. Thank you for the prompt response and I'm very happy to read back from you. Sorry for my delayed response, Again my name is Emily Smith, I'm married and I have a 10 months old baby, his name is Ryan. My husband is a Software Developer and computer analyst, we are moving back to the States from Canada, ON because he just secured a new job and he's to resume third-week of May (21th day of May 2018). I'd like to know your zip code to see if you live close to our new home because of the distance and your easy mobility . I’ll provide you with our new home address too once I get your zip Code and be sure we re relatively close . It's a single family house 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, 2000 sq ft.House description: 2 br, 2 bath townhouse with custom woodwork throughout. One assigned parking space. Luxurious master suite, open-concept chef's kitchen with granite counters, ss appliances, skylight, custom cabinetsFireplace Type: Living RoomCooling: Central CoolingHeating: Heat Pump Electric# Fireplaces: 1Fireplace: 1, Living RoomDining Area Level: EntryKitchen Level: EntryWe have ordered for the furniture and home appliances, so all we need you to do is to make use of our supplies to do the interior decorating (furniture and electronics layout, artwork placement, kitchen utensils placements etc) once the orders are delivered. I do not have the floorplan yet but I will try and get it soonest.Below are the items my husband ordered, I'll see if I can get the rest to you but these are the major ones:Belmont Twelve Light Chandelier -3Curtain Panels -5Floor Pillow - 2Window treatments - 3Rug for living room 5' by 6' in size - 1Collage wall hanging picture frame - 2Traverse Semi-Flush Ceiling Fan - Brushed Steel 2Maroneia TV Stand -13 Piece Coffee Table Set - 1Chair and Ottoman Set - 15 Piece Dining Set - 1Diamond Upholstery Panel Bed- 2Duvet Set - 32 Piece Bath Rug SetCookware SetsBath linens and mirrors The paintings have been done so you don't need to worry about that. Where is your location or city? and I would like to know how much you are willing to charge for your services and if you accept certified check for payment. I would appreciate it if you can get back to us soonest because we really want things sorted before our arrival, our arrival date is 19th May 2018.Hope to read from you soon. Thanks and in anticipation of your response.Regards,Emily Smith

Apr 30, 2018 06:45 PM #26
Rainer
24,859
Patti Robinson
Polished Pillars Staging LLC - Lebanon, OH
Always Keeping Design in Mind

I am glad you were aware, I hate seeing people get scammed.

May 01, 2018 09:09 AM #27
Anonymous
Ken

I just got the exact same one. The only difference was the name. My question is what would be the problem with just keeping the check?

May 28, 2018 11:16 AM #28
Rainer
24,859
Patti Robinson
Polished Pillars Staging LLC - Lebanon, OH
Always Keeping Design in Mind

The check is bogus, so I don't see any problem with just keeping it (not cashing it), especially if it irritates the scammers!

May 29, 2018 05:36 AM #29
Anonymous
Monica

Hi all I have had about 4 of these scam requests so far. Three were from an Emily Smith. The first I actually had a back and forth email with them but told them I would not accept delivery of their items and must meet them in person to sign the contract I just got another yesterday!

Jun 04, 2018 05:13 PM #30
Anonymous
Robin

My friend fortunately recognized this scam & informed me about it. I was contacted by "Mrs. Lucie Howard" with the same story about moving from the U.K. on May 30th. Her furniture is supposed to arrive on June 19th. Thanks for the heads up everyone...

Jun 06, 2018 08:16 PM #31
Anonymous
james

Just was contacted through my contact info on Houzz- a "Mrs. Sharon", with poor English skills, wanted me to photograph a "rental apartment" but changed to a 3000sqft house...

"I really appreciate your instantaneous response and l''m glad to read from you and sorry for the late response Recall, my name is Mrs. Sharon, I'm married and have 2kids, I have difficulty in hearing, my husband is a software Developer and system Engineer. I will be needing you to take few shoot of a home and here is the address :here is the location 550 Rundlehorn Cir NE Calgary, AB T1Y 5T9, Canada beds 3 baths 3,031 sqft. We are currently in New York but will be moving down to Canada ending of this month because my husband just secure a new good job and he will be resuming first week of next month i will need to make necessary arrangement with regards to the photo shoots prior, before we proceed with the interior design because it's those pictures(home) you took we are going to send to the interior decorator to do the home stager, When the shooting exercises would commence proper.

Section of the home to be covered, Though are of a moderate quality l want a professional touch in the images, How do you charge ? Do get back with your estimated service charge so as to proceed proper with the next line of action. Do you accept certified check for Payment? I would appreciate your response as soon as possible because we want things to be on ground before our arrival."

Jul 12, 2018 09:37 PM #32
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Rainer
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Patti Robinson

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