New fraudulent scam – attempting to coheres money from General Contractors and Construction / Trade company owners. This particular fraudulent scam enables perpetrators to profit through illicit activity that poses a relatively low risk for discovery.
Scenario – General Contractor receives an inquiry via their website or text message regarding estimating/bidding a home in their area. The inquiry comes from an out of state phone # and the individual making the inquiry will only respond via email or text. Initial inquiry includes the following questions: 1. Do you do this type of work (whatever trade your company specializes in) 2. If credit cards are accepted and 3. If you are the Owner of the company. Once this information is provided – Individual provides the Contractor with a home address – Contractor goes to bid the property for the work requested. Individual states they are in charge of finding a contractor to do the work but that they are in the hospital recuperating from lung cancer and they are in a hurry to have the work completed. Individual persistently contacts Contractor via text message requesting bid and contract be sent as soon as possible. Once the bid and contract have been sent via email – the Individual replies with a “favor to ask” and goes on to explain that they are actually the new Owner of the home (not the person “in charge of finding a contractor” as previously claimed) – that the agent in charge of the home, while they were purchasing, is a former client of theirs and that they still owe said, person, the commission for the sale. The individual goes on to state that the commission must be paid prior to starting the work on the home so that the Contractor’s work is “not interrupted or stopped”. Individual asks the Contractor to inflate their bid amount to include an additional amount of money (in the case of our company it was for an additional $4,350) – the Individual also kindly requests to include any fees or tax that would be charged to your account (as a “courtesy” for the inconvenience of helping them out). At this point, we realized this was a scam of some kind so we started investigating – beginning with the home address for the “project” – which turned out was just put on the market for sale only 3 days prior to us being contacted for a bid on work to be done. Next, called the listing agent, no recent sale, and not enough time from the listing date for any sale transaction of the home to have closed. Next, pulled the county property tax records, which indicated that the current seller had been the homeowner for the last 8 years. Further investigation found no trace of any individual in the US with the name that was given – no records for the phone # used (unlisted and completely untraceable) and no link to the email address provided either. Knowing this was a scam, we took matters into our own hands and decided to play along – we added the additional requested amount to the bid and contract and added in an additional 8.25% tax plus a 3% fee to cover the credit card processing and an additional 10% convenience fee for taking the “risk” – we even added a fictional “legal fee”. The Individual agreed to the escalated price and then asked us what “Merchant Services” process would be used. The Individual was informed that the “merchant services provider” was none of his concern. He was further informed that nothing would be processed until the completed credit card authorization form was returned – along with a photocopy of the front and back of the credit card and also a copy of his Driver’s License. The Individual then had the audacity to ask “Can’t you just run the card and I’ll send you the forms later?” <<< Contractors, Real Estate Agents, Construction Companies & Owners BEWARE!
Because no further information was received – we are left to assume that this individual has/had possession of a stolen credit card # – and was hoping that someone would fall for his scam. For this Individual to believe that there are people out there stupid enough to fall for this – is absolutely insane. Any reliable business owner knows you cannot / should not process a credit card without proof of identity – this is to protect the business and it’s assets… had we run the stolen credit card and the money been given to the “mysterious agent” – what then? The rightful owner of the credit card reports it stolen – and we are the company who processed unauthorized charges – we are the ones left holding bag – we are the ones with our hands in the cookie jar. Beware – be cautious – know the laws and don’t be afraid to tell someone “NO” – no matter what kind of sad story they give – there are some very bad people in this world and it makes it hard to trust humanity in general.
Of course, no further information was received from the Individual – except a text 3 days later asking if the bid was finished – he must have gotten all his scam contacts mixed up and forgot that he was already busted by Woodlands Premier. A formal cease and the diciest letter was sent along with the warning that all data received from him was being turned over to the FTC and the FBI IC3 for formal complaint and investigation into the scam.