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Catching scammers, like trying to push water back up a waterfall

A small waterfall - Cooleemee River Park

A small waterfall - Cooleemee River Park

A little unsolicited excitement entered my life last week.

After mowing the yard last Tuesday afternoon I had a voice mail on my phone from a gentleman at one of the large on-line camera stores who said it was important I call him back. I’ve made purchases from this company before, but the last order was almost a year ago.

When I call him back he mentioned how much they appreciated my business and the recent orders — RECENT ORDERS, WTF?

As I was speaking to him I was also signing into on-line banking and about the same moment he mentioned the recent orders I saw my credit card had multiple fraudulent charges totally about $7000. There were 9 orders spaced out between March 11th and the 24th, but only to this one company. He explained he had become suspicious because the delivery address had been changed from the one used for last years orders, but it was still an address in Salisbury and still the same ZIP Code, so they thought perhaps I’d moved — at least that’s what he said. The new “delivery address” was only four miles from my house!   

I ended the call after making it clear to him I had not ordered anything this year. I immediately call my bank and reported the fraudulent charges — the charges were removed and the card was cancelled with a new one to be issued in a few days.

Upon hanging up from the bank, the gentleman from the on-line company called again and said that one package worth $2700 had been shipped and upon checking with UPS, had been delivered that morning to the “new address” — I told him I’d call the local Sheriff Office to see if they could recover the recently delivered package.

A call to 911 soon had a Sheriff’s Deputy at my house taking down all the information. I heard a couple of days later he visited the delivery address that afternoon and recovered the package.

The lady who lived there said she’d answered an ad in the local newspaper for an at home job which involved repacking items which were shipped to her home and then shipping them to Russia and other overseas locations. She claims she didn’t know the merchandise was illegally gained and had been doing this “job” for a while. She produced detailed records of all the shipments made. She also shared information of someone else in a nearby town who had the same “job.”

I’ve seen ads for these “jobs” posted at various places on-line and in newspapers, but I always knew they were less then legal. Perhaps with the economical hard times more people are willing to take a chance on earning money even if it sounds too good to be true.

The Sheriff’s department working closely with the on-line retailer were also able to locate a third suspicious local drop point.

This is certainly not a new story, it’s an old but hugely successful global scam — here’s a 2003 article that describes the exact same situation. The scam has lasted over time because it’s almost impossible to catch the real criminals who operate from these overseas locations and there’s no end of none-too-bright people looking for an easy “job” repacking and shipping packages.

Where did they get my credit card information? I suspect it was from a hacking/security leak of the on-line camera retailer which explains how the Russian thieves knew to select a local drop point within the same ZIP code as my original delivery address. I hope this is the end of my unwilling participation, but I’m monitoring my credit report carefully.

22 Comments on Catching scammers, like trying to push water back up a waterfall

  1. Wow! What a story, Earl. I’m glad that you had the idea to contact the sheriff and that they were able to do something about it. Hopefully these guys/gals will be caught and soon!

    Absolutely love photo of Bull Hole, Earl. Wonderful

    • Paul, I hate to think how much merchandise is being stolen and shipped out of the country each year using just this method. The sheriff said they could stop the drop points when they found out about them but there wasn’t anything they could do or even anyone they could report this too who would/could take action on a case by case basis — it’s just a write-off.

      Thanks on the photo.

  2. Tom Devlin // 30 Mar ’10 at 2:30 pm // Reply

    Several years ago we had pretty much the same thing happen to us. In our case we were being charged for medical equipment, watches and computers. Our credit card company caught the activity and stopped the card even before they called us. The goods were being shipped to two different locations and then out of the country from there. Police and detectives were involved in our case.

    It is amazing how fast all of this happens. We sure do live in interesting times.

    • Tom, yea these international thieves have come up with one heck of a system to steal and keep themselves fairly isolated from any danger of prosecution. All it takes is gullible people to run the drop points and re-ship the merchandise.

      I’m assuming you’re referring to the Chinese curse version of interesting times. ;-)

  3. Wow, I’ve never heard of that before and it puts a scare in me about ordering on line.

    A second, Wow! for the photo. Love the colors and silky smooth feel. I may have to find out where this place is at. Would enjoy taking a few images myself.

    • Monte, if the credit card companies didn’t cover fraudulent charges I doubt anyone would use them on-line and the whole on-line shopping would either dry up or services such as PayPal would see a tremendous growth.

      I appreciate the WOW on the photo. If you’re in the Charlotte/Salisbury, NC, area for any time let me know and I’ll show the spot to you personally. :-)

      • I’ll take you up on that. In fact I have a 24 hour overnight on the 22nd of April. I get in at noon and leave at noon on the 23rd.

        • We’ll see what we can work out. I have a Dr’s appointment the afternoon of the 22nd but I could reschedule. I’d like to make it work so we could meet.

        • Well, you’ll have to look me up, too, Monte! I live fairly close to the airport.

          • It would be neat to meet up with both of you, take a run for some scenery and photos then grab a late dinner somewhere. I do want to meet both of you. We stay at the Country Inn and Suites located at 2541 Little Rock Road, Charlotte NC 28214. How far away is that from you guys?

  4. Wow, what a hassle and bunch of angst and irritation that must have been. Glad to hear it had a good ending.

    • Eric, yea, in my case they scammers got nothing and so far except for some hassle and a busy day I’ve escaped the episode without harm — but I believe my case was an exception. In one way or the other we all end up paying for those millions of dollars of merchandise they do get away with each year using this method and others.

  5. horrible story, hope all will be well

    but a stunningly beautiful capture!

  6. Here is a beautiful catch of sight, superb movement of water, beautiful photo, I like.

  7. That’s a very scary story, wow. Makes me only want to pay cash. Love the image, did you use Vivenza on this? It’s really quite special.

  8. Hi Earl,

    Sorry you had to go through all of that. It’s tough out there. I work for a bank. Besides all that, I love this photo. I like the calming look of the flowing water, smooth. Great photo!

    Alan

  9. Hi Earl,

    I read your post about the online scam with interest. So I’m writing to ask permission to post your message on our Travel Adventure Video web site for our listers. (http://www.traveladventurecinema.com/)

    I think it is most useful to remind folk of these scams, even though most of us are vaguely aware of them. Reinforcement of the knowledge may help to suppress the success of such scams.

    Thanks in advance for any help you may extend,
    Dale

    • Hi Dale, sure, feel free to post the message and/or link. I’d appreciate you maintaining the link back to the original post. Regards!

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