Book Trends Blog

November 18, 2011

Scam Alert for Writers, Speakers, and Performers by Bob Spear

This is the sesquicentennial year for Kansas. For its 150th birthday, the state government in Topeka has put up a website that provides contact and performer information about entertainers who do historical-based material for children. For that reason, I wasn’t too surprised to get a query from an unknown person about performing for a birthday party. The email query wanted to know where I was located, what my rates were, and my availability for a couple of Fridays in December. His English language was awkward. Since we have several international families who come here every year to the US Army’s Command and General Staff College course, I presumed this may have come from one of them. Although a warning alarm went off in my head, I courteously replied to the message.

I soon got a reply asking if I could do the job. I answered with a series of qualifying questions that would help me structure a credible program. They answered and said they wanted me to do the gig. They asked where they should send the check and to what address. I provided that info and mentioned they could just hand me a check on the day of the performance. No, they insisted on sending it right away. All this time, more alarms were going off.

Next, I got a message with a Federal Express tracking number and a request to notify them as soon as the check got to me. They also told me there would be evaluators in the audience who owned a chain of orphanages who would be interested in booking me in the future. Now my internal alarms were screaming. I called the motel where they said the function would occur and they didn’t know anything about it, nor did they have appropriate facilities.

At that point, I contacted our Sheriff’s department and reported all that had gone on. They agreed that the whole deal smelled. Later that day, Federal Express left an envelope in my back door. I called the Sheriff’s Lieutenant and he and one of his deputies came right over. I had been careful not to get my prints on the envelope, which had a return address with a Vietnamese name out of California. The deputy put on gloves and opened the envelope. She asked, “What had been the agreed fee?”

I replied it had been for $100. She smiled and said, “As you suspected, the check has a photocopied signature and is made out for $3,800.” They kept the check and its package. I forwarded all the email correspondence to the Sheriff’s.

This how the scam works: they will claim a mistake was made and could I remit the difference to them? Of course the check they sent is fake. They make their money off my remittance. The investigators said this was the first time they had seen this scam targeted toward such a specialized group. Usually it would be sent out to a large group of elderly people.

Performers tend to be goodhearted souls. It would be easy to see someone fall for this, so I thought I’d better send out this alert. Fortunately my 25 years working in military intelligence developed some useful instincts. That is why I smelled a rat early on and also knew how to deal with it. Be very careful out there!


1 Comment »

  1. Wow, tis the season for scamming and phishing: We just had someone contact us claiming to be from our bank’s abuse department and wanted to know if we had authorized a purchase to a major computer corporation yesterday on a credit card #—-. She said they were freezing the account while I checked and gave me her phone number and the corporation’s phone #. I called the customer service # on the back of my card and was put in touch with the real abuse department. There was no purchase made to the large corporation and our account had not been frozen. Of course, the two toll-free numbers given to me would ring in their own operations center. Chalk another one up to my instincts. Scam avoided!

    Comment by bobspear — November 23, 2011 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

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