So… I recently entered into an email correspondence with a prospective customer via my website email link. From the very first email, it was all just a little bit “off”, but as a new business I decided to give the benefit of the doubt since there seemed nothing much that couldn’t be explained by a simple lack of english language literacy, which is common enough. I was informed that the customer could only communicate via email due to lung cancer and hearing surgery and was only able to pay online via credit card.
Ok, we can deal with that. Odd, and a bit suspect, but we can deal. After some basic questions required to be able to present a quote, and suggesting that the machines that the customer wants work done on are perhaps not the best investment given the amount of labour required to bring them up to merely ‘workable’, I was thanked for my concern and assured that all was good to go ahead, even though no real questions were ever actually answered.
At this point I decide that I need to simply take the potential customer at their word as regards their assessment as to the suitability of the machines. So I offered my “best guess estimate quote” which was immediately accepted.
Then our “negotiations” reached the point where the potential customer requests the “favour” of me accepting a credit card payment for 160% the value of the quote, with 37.5% of it “for you to hold” and a 2.5% “tip for you”. The remainder of the payment (60% of the 160% proposed payment and 96% of the original quote) is to be paid by me “to the charter bus driver that will bring the the whole desktop to you via Bank Transfer .the reason is that he does not have facilities to accept credit cards payment but cash only.”
At this point I point out that their (unnamed) freight (or charter bus?) company is charging – at absolute minimum – more than 10 times average rates and is not accepting standard payment methods, which seems rather sketchy, and offer to refer them to a reputable freight company instead.
Unsurprisingly, this option is not satisfactory, and also unsurprisingly, I am forced to apologise, and decline the work unless these terms change since this seems most likely to be a money laundering scam where your best probable outcome is to simply not be prosecuted.
The way many of these type of scams work is that you will likely be paid the money using stolen credit card credentials. The genuine owner of the card takes a few days to notice and report the transaction, by which time you have transferred the money. The credit card company then cancels the original transaction (the payment to you) and now you have paid your own money to one of the scammers.
The scammers now have your “clean” money and have likely closed the account.
“Anyone who is asked to receive and transfer money on behalf of someone else may be breaching anti-money laundering laws and could be subjected to a police investigation and possibly face charges,” Det. Snr Sgt Potter (WA Police).
I am concerned that I may get some bad reviews from the potential customer mentioned here, but am confident that I have behaved honorably and dealt in good faith. I just hope that sharing this information here will help those who have not seen this one before avoid it. I also probably took these negotiations further than I would recommend, but it was interesting and hopefully informative for others.