Internet Scams Don't Work if You are Honest

Fake CheckThere's a new Internet scam invented every day, but you are immune if you are honest.  The scams succeed by preying on people's greed.  But if you know there's no such thing as free money, they can't get to you.

I was lured by an elaborate scam that began when I listed a bedroom set for sale for $500 in the local paper, which also ran its want ads online. One day "Carol Campbell" emailed me from, saying she was in the furniture consignment business and offered me $450.  I emailed back that she had a deal.

She called to confirm, using Sprint's relay service designed for deaf people, where Carol typed a message and an operator read it to me.  She said she had health problems including being hard of hearing.

Then Carol said that a shipping agent would pick up the bedroom set, and that she would send me money to pay for the service.  I was to deduct the $450 and send the rest to her shipping agent in London, England via moneygram or Western Union money transfer.

I didn't hear from her for two weeks so I sold the set to someone else and told Carol the deal of was off. Then a UPS envelope arrived with four $1,000 money orders made out to me.  I smelled a rat.

There are suckers who would have deposited the checks, deducted $450 and wired the rest of the money to London.  However I noticed:

  • The email address looked phony.
  • The phone call was untraceable because of the relay service.
  • The UPS sender was "David Cole" in Tampa, FL, who had no phone number.
  • The money orders were signed by "Valerie Mosic."
  • The ink smudged on the money order numbers.  They were probably printed with an inkjet printer using check paper from an office store.

I emailed Carol, asking where to return the checks.  She emailed that she had cancer and I should send the check to her doctor Steven E. Murillo, 111 Sutter Street, San Francisco.  No phone listing existed for "Dr. Murillo" either.

At this point, I had no doubt is was a scam.  "Carol" was hoping I would deposit the money orders and wire cash to London.  She expected I would discover that the money orders were fake after it was too late -- and there was no way to trace her.

The scam failed because Carol was an incompetent con artist -- the scam was too elaborate. Also the essential element was missing -- the feeling of greed by the mark.  I'm no angel, but this scam just left me confused.  I've seen $4,000 before and it didn't inspire avarice.

Like the former Boy Scout that I am,  I held onto the money orders, which quickly faded and turned yellow, waiting to return the money to the rightful owner.  You can't cheat an honest man.

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