When the cheque for $7,500 arrived, White Rock artist Don Dutkowski admits he was briefly tempted to cash it.
“I almost felt like rushing to a bank and taking a chance on it,” he said.
Instead – knowing the draft was bogus – Dutkowski went to police.
“If it warns one poor soul, it’s worth it,” the senior said of his decision to share the story of how the sketchy pay-off arrived in his mailbox.
Const. Janelle Shoihet confirmed police believe Dutkowski was targeted by a ‘money transfer’ or ‘Nigerian money scam.’ He is not alone in the experience, she added, nor has he been the only one to recognize the con.
“We have had a number of letters and emails turned over from people whom have not been victims because they realized it looks too good to be true,” Shoihet said.
For Dutkowski, it all started on March 20, when he received an email from someone asking if three paintings she’d seen on his website were still available for purchase. The message, requesting an urgent reply, came “within hours” of Dutkowski noticing his website was getting hits from Nigeria.
Over the course of the next five days, the writer continued to express interest, asking for pricing details and confirming her desire to purchase. The final email notes the writer is currently travelling and requests Dutkowski’s mailing address so that her husband could have someone forward the payment as soon as possible.
After making inquiries, Dutkowski – who’d had doubts from the beginning, but said he played along to see where it would go – responded on April 1, advising the woman he’d contacted police and that any payment received would be returned.
“Lo and behold, the cheque arrives (April 22) for $7,500. The order would be… for something like $1,200.”
According to a fraud-protection guide produced by the Competition Bureau, people or businesses selling products online may be targeted by an “overpayment scam,” in which a cheque or money order for more than an agreed price is received by the seller.
“The scammer is hoping that you will transfer the refund before you discover that their cheque or money order was counterfeit,” the guide states. “You will lose the transferred money as well as the item if you have already sent it.”
The bureau advises those who find themselves offered more for their products than is reasonable or agreed upon not to accept the payment.
Dutkowski described the email exchange as “a song and dance that was really beautiful.”
“This is classic (scam) format. The timing is all perfect,” he said.
He handed the cheque over to police on April 23.
Shoihet said anyone wanting to learn more about how to protect themselves from such scams may be interested in a Fraud Smart workshop being offered Tuesday (May 7) morning at the White Rock Community Centre. Featuring the client-care manager from the Royal Bank, the presentation is set for 9:30-11 a.m. in Gallery 1. To register, call 604-541-2199 and note course #24683.
For more information on various scams and how to avoid being victimized, visit http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/03074.html