A Kelowna videographer who was nearly snared by an internet cheque scam that took aim at his career, wants to warn others of red flags they should take heed of.
“They wanted a quote for an (80th) birthday party, and wanted to send the full amount right way, which I thought was a little weird,” said Conar Fair, of Fairstone Film. He explained it’s not uncommon to get requests from email and set up through online conversations.
Normally, Fair asks for just a deposit for Fairstone Films, but the scam-artist contacting him claimed to be organizing her own 80th birthday party, and wasn’t exactly internet savvy.
“Maybe she’s just old, I’ll roll with it,” Fair said he initially thought, but soon after more odd requests set off Fair’s suspicion.
Along with sending the full payment, the supposed client said they were running low on paper cheques, and needed to send the payment for the party’s caterers included with Fair’s fee.
They asked if, once Conar received the money, he could transfer the caterer’s fee to their “son-in-law.” Then the so called son-in-law could make the payment to the caterers.
“It was getting weird at that point. They said that they were in the hospital, and when I asked for the son-in-law’s contact information, they (avoided) the question. So, I didn’t think the money was even going to come,” said Fair.
Sure enough, a few days later, Fair received the cheque which included his fee, and the amount that was meant-to-be transferred the “son-in-law.”
“It was just odd, and suspicious, so I took the cheque to a bank teller,” said Fair.
His suspicions had been correct, the bank noticed that the received cheque was falsified, and said that they get cheques of that kind two or three times a day.
The scam-artist’s foiled plot was to have Fair deposit the cheque into his account, transfer the rest to the “son-in-law,” and by the time the bank had noticed the scam, the money would have been taken from Fair’s account without any coverage from the bank.
“If you do it, the bank does not cover you,” said Fair. “The bank said it was smart to report (my suspicions).”
This type of scam is a variation of an advance fee scheme, which the RCMP details on their website.
Coincidentally, March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, and the RCMP has tips for catching would-be scammers including never accepting payment for a higher price than asked for, return the cheque to the buyer and ask for a new one if suspicious, and to be vigilant with any and all concerns.
“In the original email, there were several other vendors attached, so I ended up calling a few to warn them. Turns out I was the only one chosen,” Fair said with a laugh.
Fair, a small business owner, would almost never say no to a potential client and gave the benefit of the doubt initially, but followed his gut when the oddities became too recurrent.
A close call this time, but just because there as no harm, doesn’t mean there was no foul. Fair said he urges others to simply double check at the bank if there are any doubts.
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