Before email, scammers used the TTY system that telephone companies offer for deaf clients to scam people. They still use this relay system occasionally, so if you get a weird relay call where the operator has to talk for the caller, be suspicious.
But for the most par, scammers are using email now.
I get one like this in my email about once a day:
My name is John Herb,i am deaf and a business man here in NJ,USA. I am interested in ordering some products from you on behalf of my client and i will like the order ship to United Kingdom because that is where my client based.
I will be responsible for all payment via my master credit card but before we proceed i will like you to e-mail me back with the answer to my questions below :
Do you accept master credit card ?
Can my client pickup agent pickup the order from you after the credit card approval ?
And this one:
Okay fine ,My SON Birthday is coming up on the 8th june, so I will like to place an order for CUP CAKE for 150 guest so I would be needing 150 individual orders all together and i will like to have the total cost plus tax so that i can give you my credit card to charge for the payment and it will be pick up by 5 pm on 8th june,
note i am needing 150 Vanilla Cupcakes and 150 Chocolate Cupcakes all will being 300 can you kindly got back to me with the total cost asap
NOTE:I want you to get back to me with the prices for each CUP CAKE and total cost for 150 people and I will forward my CREDIT CARD to you as Payment
Or this little gem (It's pretty much all one sentence):
Hello Owner/General Manger
I am Patrick Burson,I will like to order for food for 400 peoples on the 30 August 2011 and it will be pick up in your store by 12 noon,And i wanna make order for cake for individuals i mean in a cup or something presentable for each person so i want 400 cakes and 400 soft drinks and i want the cake in Vanilla flavor mix with chocolate with soft drinks so i will like you to email me if you can handle the cake for me and the types of credit cards you do accept for payment because i will be making the full payment with my credit card,Also the cake will be picked up at your store once its ready by the date and time,so let me know the price per person now and the total price altogether.i will need your name and your cell phone number and your store locate address and your company name and your company phone number so i can forward them to my shipper now so they can locate your store when they are coming for the pick up
What they want you to do is to write back. They keep writing to you, giving a few more details each time, until you feel like you trust them.
So you finally agree to take the order. The scammer sends the credit card payment, but overpays. They ask you to take the overpayment and pay the shipping company that they'll be sending to pick up the merchandise. Oh, and you can keep $200 of that for your time because you've been so helpful.
So you go ahead and make the 5-tiered strawberry cake that has "happy marriage life" written on it (scammers seem to like strawberry cake.) The shipping company arrives, picks up the cake, and gets the payment from you. Everything works out fine.
Uh oh, but two weeks later your bank calls and tells you that they found out the credit card was stolen, the owner just got his bill and is disputing the charges, and they're pulling the payment back! So you're out the cost of the merchandise, the time it took to produce the merchandise, and the shipping costs that you paid from your own pocket.
And that is the point of the entire thing. It seems ridiculous for someone to go through all that trouble for just the shipping costs, but it adds up if enough people fall for it. And I still see articles about people falling for it.
You'll see a lot of different versions of this scam. I've received some trying to book classes for visiting tourists who want to learn cake decorating. I've also received some that were intended for limousine companies and caterers, so it's not something that's limited to bakers. Any time they start talking about a shipping company that's pretty much the giveaway.
The way to check whether something is a scam or not is simply to write back and tell them that you only take cash for the exact amount of the order, payable in advance. If it's a scam they'll disappear pretty quickly. If they write back and it seems like they didn't read the email that you sent, it's probably a computer that responded to you, and just send the same cash-only response.
Better yet, save your time and just delete the email. That's the safest thing to do.
The scammer that wanted the cupcakes got this response from me, though, since I like to "give back."
Yesterday you wrote to me asking for GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD PLATE and also CAESAR CHICKEN SALAD PLATE. I find it interesting that you have so many special occasions and can't seem to pick up a phone.
Cost for each cupcake is $1,000,000,000, so total cost will be $300,000,000,000. Payable in cash only and you have to pick them up yourself and show identification, I don't give them to delivery services that will then try to rip me off.
The address to pick them up is at Yo Mama's house.
You have to be careful about scammers these days.
For some reason, he never wrote back.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com