Printing Scams Make Their Rounds on Web —MichelsonFebruary 2010
KUDOS TO Peter Soloway and Larry Kahn, estimators at Design Distributors in Deer Park, NY, for spreading the word about the latest Internet-based scam that targets commercial printers. Their shop received an e-mail last month, complete with artwork attached, from a Mr. Glen Green at a Yahoo! account. The e-mail sought a quote for printing 70,000 copies of an 81⁄2x11˝, full-color flyer, and queried what form of payment the printer would accept if awarded the job.
Design Distributors responded online with an estimate, but became suspicious when "Mr. Green" replied (in an e-mail laden with typos and grammatical errors) that he accepted the price and was ready to provide his credit card information, but first wanted the printer to e-mail Tankers Limited Shipping to find out the freight charges. The 28 cartons of printed flyers, Green instructed, were to be shipped to the Mr. Wilson Orphanage Home at an address in Paris. Once the total bill had been tallied, Green indicated he would pay in full by credit card. Tankers Limited, by the way, did e-mail a quote back to the printer with various shipping options based on delivery. And the shipper noted, surprise, surprise, that its company policy was to receive payment from the location of pickup only.
The red flags were fully raised at Design Distributors by this point, thus Kahn forwarded the quote from the shipping company to Mr. Green, but also indicated two stipulations: 1) Green would be responsible for setting up and paying the shipping charges directly, and 2) as a first-time client, he was required to make full payment by wire transfer, not credit card, before production could begin. Green replied that he would only pay for the job using a credit card. As expected, they never heard from him again.
Kahn and Soloway are convinced that if they had taken Green's credit card as payment, the card number would have been fake or come up as stolen, or they'd been out the money because Green would have later disputed the charges with the credit card company. They now believe, too, that Green was somehow affiliated with the freight company, and would have also benefitted financially if the job had actually been shipped.
The estimators-turned-detectives also directed me to some Web posts where similar examples of this type of scam aimed at printers were detailed. Perhaps even more insidious, I found a link to another site, detailing the African Puppy Scam, where dog lovers seeking new puppies recounted various horror stories. They had fallen victim to supposed U.S. missionaries who indicated that they had just relocated to Africa. And, because these missionaries were so busy helping the less fortunate, they could no longer care for the beloved puppies they had brought overseas with them. Thus, the puppies were available for free (only to good homes, of course) if the new owners just paid the shipping charges up front via Western Union. In one post, a poor guy even revealed how some of the money earmarked to help pay for his wife's upcoming organ transplant had been swindled away in his attempt to surprise her before the operation with a new puppy. Various e-mail scams—including well-known ones that have made the rounds, such as the Nigerian government official or royalty seeking help to access their fortunes tied up in a bank account—have been traced to Internet cafes throughout Africa.
Perhaps one printer summed it up best in an Internet post to a fellow owner who nearly fell victim to a printing scam: "Keep your eyes open, and remember that if it smells like sh*t, looks like sh*t...it will taste like sh*t, too." Do you know of anyone (yourself included) who's been duped by similar fraud? We'd love to hear about it to pass along, so the same misfortune doesn't happen to somebody else. Rest assured; all names will be changed to protect the innocent, and to not add injury to insult.
In these tough times, with printers struggling to fill idle press time, and thus more likely to bid on and produce a job that comes in over the Web from an unknown party, it's disheartening to hear of e-mail scammers targeting our industry. After all, it's hard enough to please finicky graphic artists let alone worry about falling prey to scam artists. PI