We received an interesting e-mail in the customer service mailbox today.

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If our CS representative received it at home, she would have likely realized it was a scam right away. But we often do receive fairly vague messages like this  in the customer service mailbox. (note to those who need customer service: it’s always best to be very specific.) So, she responded.

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Just a few minutes later, we received this response.

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The scammer said: “Good to read back from you, I need to send some money to my Attorney who is helping me secure some papers for a property I bought in California I can’t do this now because I am currently traveling by sea, can you help me transfer the money? I will pay back on Friday morning when I get back home.”

That’s when our CS rep brought it to my attention. So we looked at that first email and discovered several warning signs.

The e-mail sender does not match the e-mail address.  It’s an attempt to use a familiar sounding address to disguise where the message is really going.  Of course, as a home user, you would know instantly if Larry Huckstep was someone you knew. Although, it’s possible a scammer like this could steal the name of someone you know.

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If you get a message like this and think there’s any possibility of it being real, do not reply to it. Start a new message to that person at the address you have in your contacts and ask about the message. Better yet, have them call you or come see you in person. Don’t provide your number. Anyone that knows you well enough to ask for money should have your number and be able to answer some questions that prove their identity.

At this point, I took over the email and decided to have some fun with the scammer. I sent this message.

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Just a few minutes later, the scammer replied. It seems that “Larry” needs $3200.

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I replied with this:  “That’s a lot of money. Are you absolutely sure you’ll have it all back by Friday?  How do I send it to your attorney?”

The person replied back with the address of the bank, the account and then the routing number.

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Being a good citizen, I decided to report this scammer to both Chase Bank and the police. The Tampa Police said we’d need to call our local police department. Which I did. But as of now the phone line for the people I need to talk to is still busy. So I tried calling the Tampa Chase branch but was unable to get a human. Tried the Chase Customer Service line and spoke to a concerned individual, who seemed to be overseas. But she told me that they had no way of contacting the local Chase branches and that I would need to go there in person to report it. Since it’s a pretty long walk from Ohio to Florida, that didn’t seem doable.

Next step, the Chase fraud page with contact information for reporting such things.

Since we were pretty fired up about it here. I sent an e-mail while our ad writer called the fraud line. I know I always tell you guys to report things, but they sure don’t make it easy.

I finally managed to get hold of the Detective Bureau where I was told that I needed to call 9-1-1 and have a police car come to our office if I wanted to report the e-mail. That seemed like a waste of resources for a non-emergency. But apparently you can’t just forward the e-mail to a detective. I was also given the option of calling the non-emergency number and arranging to have someone call me back in a day or so to take the report over the phone.

The Chase fraud division told my co-worker that there’s nothing they can do about their account being used in this way and that she would have to file a police report.

Following the advice I received from the Detective Bureau, I called 9-1-1. The operator was quite irate with me for using the number and told me it was only supposed to be for emergencies. Said there was absolutely nothing the police could do. Suggested I call the Better Business Bureau.

At this point, I sort of gave up. All I can tell you is not to send your money to Deb in Tampa and to be super-careful to look out for yourself. Because you cannot count on anyone else to assist you otherwise.  I did dash off this note to the scammer:

“Super!  Just wanted to thank you for all the routing info and your name and everything. I’ve reported you and all this information to both the Tampa Police Department and the Chase Bank!”

If any law enforcement people or Chase bank is at all interested, I do have the account and routing number for this crook.

The lesson here: cyber crime is really difficult to report and prosecute. No one thinks it’s their job to police it.

~ Cynthia