Friday, November 17, 2006

A Scam? Oh, I'm thinking yes

So about two weeks ago I got an odd email from "Albert" in Belgium. He would like his 14-year son, "Paul", to take lessons with me.

Albert wants to know my fee for 6 months of lessons (two lessons per week).

Man this is odd:

  • a 14-year old son who is just going to pick up and fly to South Carolina to take lessons?

  • the father wants to pre-pay for 6 months of lessons?

But still maybe the son is already here doing exchange study and dad just wants to line up some lessons. Apparently Albert's cousin, "Steve" is in the area.

Then this gets stranger:

  • Albert doesn't seem worried about details of scheduling, he just refers to 6 months, not specific dates

  • Albert informs me that his son doesn't even own a trombone yet. Would I suggest one?

  • When I dial Albert's phone number, there's no voice mail and he never picks up.

Now this gets really strange:

  • Albert sends me a check for thousands more than the fee I quoted him

  • I email him to inform him and, in a subsequent phone call, he tells me that his wife accidentally included the travel agent's fee in my check. To solve this problem he wants me to (drum roll please, this is where the red warning light starts flashing)...wire the money to the travel agent.

  • Apparently all this is very urgent as the son needs to board the plane that very day (now that"s an eager trombone student!)

OK, folks, I may think I'm a pretty decent teacher and all but this is just too much. Time to get off this merry-go-round. That check isn't touching my checking account and no money is getting wired anywhere!

  • Oh yeah, the last two emails from Albert give me the contact info for the "travel agent" and a handy-dandy list of places from which I can send a money order (include all the usual E-Z check cashing joints).

  • Oh wait, it gets even better. At the end of my last phone call from Albert he informs me that it is necessary that I purchase my money order with cash.

I emailed Albert to say that, since Paul has waited 14 years to begin trombone, he can wait a few weeks longer and that I was going to return his cashier's check and wait for an accurate check that really clears the bank.

Funny, no reply to that email......

By the way, here's a link to a web site dealing with scams and frauds. Read through it and you'll see that recently there has been a big rise in phony cashiers checks.