Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not this pigeon

As I type this, a con man is trying to swindle me because he thinks I’m a restaurateur, and a gullible one at that. It’s the classic big-order scam. If you’re never been the target, here’s how it works.

On Dec. 6, I received an unsolicited e-mail from a David Moore, who said he wanted to place a catering order for 150 grilled-chicken salads for next week, Italian dressing on the side. It’s for his mom’s birthday, he explained. Just e-mail him the bill and he’ll pay by credit card.

The e-mail was addressed to Owner/Manager, and I’m sure I was one of hundreds if not thousands of recipients. Our names were likely taken off some list the sender somehow secured, maybe from a recent industry convention whose directory they snagged. Or he might’ve plucked it from a past blog where I invited readers to e-mail me questions for the conference speakers I was covering. But that’s pure speculation.

In any case, because the solicitation came from a private individual using a Gmail account, it wasn’t caught in my spam filter. Clearly the perpetrator is playing a numbers game.

If I’d played along, I’d have sent Moore a bill, which he’d have paid with a credit card—somebody else’s. Then, right before the scheduled pickup (3 p.m. on Dec. 15, the e-mail specified), he’d have cancelled the order. I’d bet he’d have told me that his mother had gotten sick, or maybe even died.

Then he’d have asked for however much of a refund he was due. But could I send a check instead of refunding the credit charge?

How could I have refused a man who’s mother just died? Besides, I’m too busy with holiday matters to quibble. Just send him the damn check!

I was tempted to play along for a first-hand experience, then turn the matter over to the authorities. Instead, I wrote Moore back, saying I’d like to call him to discuss the order.

To my astonishment, he responded (and this is verbatim, complete with grammar and capitalization mistakes)): “i will like you to know that am hearing impaired so i can only contact you via email so i will like you to email me back with the grand total plus tax.”

Usually, the order-placer is a little craftier, calling a particular restaurant and ordering off the online menu. In my situation, all plausibility was dashed by what was clearly a mass e-mail approach. I may not be the shiniest penny in the fountain, but I couldn’t swallow that someone would casually send a large order to an unfamiliar restaurant. And, of course, I’m not a restaurateur, and my e-mail wouldn’t suggest I’m one.

Clearly the ploy must work, or the scammers wouldn’t bother. It’s like all those unsolicited e-mails that purportedly come from the Sultan of Swami, who needs only a few hundred dollars to claim millions in inheritance, which he’ll gladly share with you.
Apparently the Sultan enjoys a grilled-chicken salad from time to time.

1 comment:

dapscott said...

I've seen this in many forms. Using the hearing impaired line frustrates me the most. We can easily delete an email, but through the TTY line you are not sure until you have taken the time to listen if it is really a potential customer or a hoax, and the operator has no idea the identity of the person calling.

Interestingly enough, it is ALWAYS a chicken dish, generally chicken salad, being ordered.