Reprinted here is a communication I received from a friend and business associate regarding a new scam popping up around the country. Please read and let others know that any time you are asked to send money via Western Union and you will somehow profit by doing it, that you are being scammed and will end up losing a great deal of money in the end.
Our business received a phone call from a consumer who received a direct mail piece that included our company name and address and an enclosed check for $3,500 with our company name and actual address imprinted on it. The consumer was concerned if it was a legitimate offer. A red flag instantly went up on our side too because we do not send direct mail – we are an online marketing firm. The mail piece included an 800 number which was not our number. The letter requested the consumer to become a “mystery shopper” which has nothing to do with our business.
In a nut shell, this letter informed them they were our newest employee and their first test as a secret shopper was to cash the $3,500 check, keep $300 for themselves, and take $3,200 and “test” Western Union by sending the money through them and giving a report on their customer service. They further suggested that if they did a good job they would also be working with other major retailers such as Sears, Walmart, Home Depot, Victoria’s Secret, JC Penney, KMart, ToysRUs, Dillards and Macy’s. They then suggested the consumer call a toll free number to activate the check. In a few short minutes, we knew this was a scam so we started to investigate and take action.
Our first instinct was to seek help from Local and Federal Authorities. None of them had any sense of urgency to take action. After realizing how many American’s were likely going to be scammed we decided to launch our own investigation. “Operation Orange” was put into action. We mindmapped a strategy and put it into action.
Our first step was to put up a warning on our corporate website notifying consumers of the fraud. Having expertise of how to use search engines work and being creative thinkers helped us accelerate our investigation. We pooled some of our telecom connections and traced the phone number to Grasshopper Group, LLC. We uncovered that Grasshopper is a remote voice over IP company that allows consumers to quickly set up an 800 number and forward it to anywhere they want. We tracked down the CEO and requested that Grasshopper help us stop this fraud and will find out tomorrow if they are in the business of facilitating fraud or protecting the public.
Having some background in VoIP and understanding how these VoIP systems work, we figured they might be activated through a keypad based password control. Since they clearly claimed this was our phone number, we decided to see if we could access the phone number by guessing the pin number. With a little American inginuity, we uncovered the pin. Once again since the number was being advertised as our number we decided to change the pin code and create a new voice greeting. The voice greeting originally claimed they were our firm. We changed the message to warn consumers that this direct mail program was a scam. In further investigating the account, we were able to uncover telephone numbers of people who had either been scammed or were in the process of being scammed. After hours of relentless determination, we further determined the actual phone numbers of the scammers receiving the forwarded calls from the VoIP controlled 800 number. We have since traced those numbers to two different numbers in Quebec.
We contacted the FBI, Secret Service, U. S. Postal inspection office, local police, Montreal police, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Nobody has shown any urgency in helping consumers that are being scammed out of thousands of dollars. They are all familiar with the scam, but seem to care less. We have uncovered valuable information in our investigation that might be able to cripple this operation and bust the bad guys if people move fast, but we can’t seem to get any help from the legal authorities to protect many vulnerable consumers. We have strong reason to believe these are cell phones that could likely be tracked with GPS. We have multiple recordings from the scammers. Can you help?
We worked diligently all day to attain copies of the mail piece. Copies of the checks. Phone numbers. We have received calls from all over the country, so this is not a small operation. It appears to be a national mass mailing. We’ve even gotten confirmation from a check cashing business in Tyler, TX that people are buying into this scam and being duped out of real money.
We will tell our story to someone committed to helping consumers. In this trying time, they are attacking desperate people and they need to be stopped. Because the Federal Agencies are familiar with this type of scam they are lackadaisical in pursuing this matter. This new spin on a familiar scam, now preys on both Small Businesses and the millions of people seeking employment and nobody seems to care. With your help we can at least draw attention to this and warn the public of this terrible injustice. We can provide several names and phone numbers of people who received this mailing and the background investigation we uncovered through the criminals stupidity of using a simple password.
We talked to one gentleman, Ryan. Excited his new “job”, Ryan followed the directions of the letter and deposited the bogus $3,500 check in his account at Bank of America. Feeling the check was good he further forwarded directions and sent his $3,200 through Western Union and was prepared to critique their customer service. Today he discovered that he now is responsible for that money and a plethora of overdraft fees he cannot afford and the bank will not reverse. Distraught on the phone he asked us to call the bank for him, and went so far as to ask us if he is a criminal.
I am hoping to see this on the national news soon! People need to know!
What kind of world is this turning into? Does your mother know this is how you spend your days? Put as much effort into your education and getting a job as you do putting together these scams and you won’t have to steal from people for a living!