An Attempt At An Old-school Scam

scam, traffic warning signs, scam alert signs, scammer, 419 scam, computer scamIn this day of phishing; spoofing; identity theft; salami slicing, spam; trojan horses; and a seemingly endless supply of Nigerians who claim that they desperately need to get their money out of their home country, there seems to be no end to the lengths that some scammers will go to bilk you out of your money. Being good at spotting a con is more important than ever, since a scam is not always as obvious as one might think.

Old-time band vs. Old-school scam

I play in a big band called the Moonliters. Besides playing sax in the band, I also look after the website, and respond to the inquiries that the band gets through its contact page.

On March 20 we received an inquiry from someone with the email address twillam.au@gmail.com. This person wanted to know if we would be available to perform at a family reunion on May 5th from 2:00 – 7:00 pm. Apparently he was also going to use this medium (his word) to propose to his girlfriend Charllotte (no, I did not misspell that name). twillam.au also wanted to know where we were located.

A few things about this email niggled at my brain. The most obvious was that there was an .au in his email. I took a look, and there is an Abbotsford in Australia, so I informed him that we were in Abbotsford, Canada (about a 45 minute commute outside of Vancouver). If he was looking for a band in Australia, he couldn’t afford us 😉 , but we would be happy to talk with him further if he wanted a swing band for a Vancouver, Canada venue.

He replied that he was indeed looking for a band in Vancouver, and that he was working with an event planner. The venue he chose—which shall remain nameless—is the newest, and arguably most exclusive event venue in the city. However, it hadn’t been booked yet, and wouldn’t be until a few days prior to the event itself. Again, this niggled at my brain, since normally any event venue is of course booked months in advance.

Since the show was to be during the day, we were going to have to find many subs if we were to do the show, since a great many of the members of The Moonliters are music teachers, or have other day jobs.

Let the time-wasting begin….

Our bass trombone player plays in a number of jazz and dance bands in Vancouver, so he checked with the guys he knew, and he did manage to fill the spots we knew would be vacant on May 5. However while doing so, Ted did find out that those big bands in Vancouver were also contacted about the May 5 job.

After a number of back and forth emails, last Sunday I got a confirmation email from twillam.au that The Moonliters did get the job. (Which I might add, was at double our normal rate, since we had to pay extra for the subs.) Therefore I sent him out an electronic version of our contract, as well as our mailing address so that he could return the contract along with the payment required.

scam, fraud, traffic warning signs, fraud alert signs, scammer, 419 scam, computer scamDespite our seemingly good fortune of getting a good job at a prestigious event venue, I still had a number of questions niggling away. The most obvious one being: Why has the event planner not contacted me? Therefore on Tuesday I reached out to the venue and asked some questions that we would need answers to. Questions like: Is there alleyway access to load and unload gear? Where is the closest parking? Etc.

The person responsible for event booking at the venue contacted me that same day, and we spoke on the phone. Not only is there no event scheduled on May 5, she could even guess who the person was that I had been corresponding with. She told me that she had been dealing with 3 to 4 vendors that day alone, all about this same issue.

Caterers. Photographers. Florists. They had all been contacted by this twillam.au, and been given this same story.

The whole thing was a scam, and a pretty poorly thought out one at that. The event co-ordinator herself had wasted so much time on him already, she was frustrated beyond belief.

She wasn’t entirely sure how the scam worked, but from what she understood from some of the vendors she spoke with, the scam went like this: The supposed client (scammer) sends a bank draft to you, but for more money than necessary. He then says there’s been a mistake, and asks for your banking info so that he can rectify the mistake.

Huh? Yah, poorly thought out all right. In this day and age, I would find it hard to believe that anyone would fall for something this obvious.

I did a google search for the twillam.au@gmail.com, and came across a Facebook group for musicians in Winnipeg, Canada. The original post was dated about 10 days before The Moonliters got their first email from the “client”, and warned musicians of a possible scam involving the promise of well-paying gigs.

I noted that a number of photographers and musicians from Vancouver had posted their experiences with twillam.au to the group’s FB wall as well. So far no one had come forward and said that they fell victim to the scam however. I hope no one does. Hence my reason for writing this article.

Old-school band: 1  Old-school scammer: 0

Yesterday I finally got the follow-up email from twillam.au . This is what it said:

Your details is well received and the check will be mailed out accordingly as soon as possible.

 

In the main time, There’s one more thing i need you to help me with. My uncle said he can only issue out one check as such, the event planner fee will be included alongside your service charge and you will help me in sending it over to him once check clears your bank. $180 will be included in case of tax and for tax purposes

 

You will receive a check with the amount charged together with the event planner’s fee. once you received the check and clears, you will deducted the money for your services and send the rest to the event planner.

 

I will keep you loop once the check has being  mailing out.

 

I do Hope i can trust you with this?

 

Best Regards

 

Please note: The event planners fee should only be paid after check clears your bank as it won’t come from your pocket

This seems to be some kind of variation on the 419 scam perhaps? However, since the band is to ostensibly get money first, it isn’t really a true 419 scam. How exactly the scam is to work is still not clear to me, and since I’m not falling for it, I also won’t find out.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, another band in Vancouver got the job as well as us. They already got their bank draft. Yes, it is indeed a scam.

© 2017, Helen. All rights reserved.

Helen

Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.

6 Comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this! I have actually been contacted by the same person– but thankfully I was suspicious. They are trying to claim that a cheque has been delivered to me (for hiring of musicians), though no such cheque exists, I’m sure. Nothing has arrived yet. I’ve let them know that when (if) it does, I am sending it straight back. I’ve also let them know that I cannot be responsible for paying anyone who is not part of the ensemble I manage/perform with. It is their responsibility for paying anyone else (such as an event planner). Again, thanks for posting– I finally Googled the email address and found your page here. I hope no one else gets sucked into this scam.

  2. I am reminded of Phil Woods’ reflection on club owners who rip off Jazz Musicians. He said that they’re not smart enough to be able to steal from the Rolling Stones, so they pick on the little guys.

  3. It normally only works for the scammer if you forward the ‘balance’ onto a third party quickly – before their draft has cleared properly into your account.
    There can be a period of up to a week, where the money looks like you have it, but it hasn’t actually been released fully by the sending bank ( or can be subject to a chargeback) often because funds aren’t available.
    So it always pays (pun intended…) to be both slow and very cautious, otherwise you end up forwarding your own money to someone else, and the scammers draft mysteriously vanishes from your account…
    Blighters, the more efficient you are, the easier it is to be stung 🙁

    • It normally only works for the scammer if you forward the ‘balance’ onto a third party quickly – before their draft has cleared properly into your account.

      Exactly Alan. That’s why it’s so odd that the scammer says we’re to wait until the cheque clears the bank. Presumably he’s just trying to get our banking info…

      Whatever the case, this seems to be a very poorly thought out and executed plan. It seems like a whole lot of work for very little reward. That said, if he is running multiple scams across the country using multiple email addresses, and approaching multiple vendors like florists, photographers, caterers, etc, then this might pay off. Still, I’m not seeing it.

      If approached again with a similar hinky story, I might ask for a phone call. If I don’t get one, that will tell me a lot as well—and save a fair amount of time for a few of us. 😡

      • It is rather peculiar that these days we guard our basic bank details – yet no so long ago we freely handed out cheques/checks which contained all those details and more, plus signature and (often) our address and even cheque/debit card number (with expiry date) on the back…

  4. Now this is just plain crazy, the amount of time that the perp took to make this almost happen. Reminds me of the Cruise trips for bands and the come to DC to perform scams that the travel agencies used to run. Sigh … like musicians have any money.

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