A Grand Scam: Thank You Wells Fargo

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A Grand Scam: Thank You Wells Fargo

I always wondered how people could be fall for some of the scams I hear about on TV. That was before I was advised to try to sell my Pilates Reformer on Craig’s List. I knew bad things had happened on Craig’s List, and thought I was prepared to handle them.

 

I listed the machine and immediately got two responses from people asking legitimate questions, which I answered.

About two weeks after I placed the listing, I received an email, chastising me for not responding to their earlier request for information. After rechecking all my email folders, I responded as follows:

I am sorry. I don't believe I got your emails. . . . . Yes it is available and you are welcome to come see it.

August 10, 5:34 PM: (from Timothy Cavello, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Thanks for your prompt response, actually I am sorry that I could not

longer come to pick it in person as planned, I actually just had a

change in my work schedule but I believe am ok with the condition as

seen on the advert as well as the price stated. I am ready to make

instant purchase with my mode of payment would being a Certified Bank

Check via Postal service Express mail or UPS overnight delivery.

I'll arrange for a local pick up as soon as you receive check, cashed it and have your money in hand, I promise you everything will go smoothly as I would like to have it before the my wedding anniversary which comes in 2 weeks.

Kindly get back to me with your Full Name, Full mailing Address, Cell

Phone Number and Agreed price to sell. As soon as this is provided,

payment will be overnight to you and I will let you know once mailed

out with tracking number sent to you. I will also add an additional

$30 for in order you to hold it for me till the Check gets you.

Thanks and I hope we handle this in good faith while waiting to hear from you.

Best Regards (no Name)

The language in the email might have been my first clue, but we have a plethora of immigrants in this country. Many of them are nice people and I would not hold that against him. I responded to him that evening giving him the information he requested.

August 10, 7:09 PM:

Hello,

Thanks for the information, i will need your honest and trust to end up

this transaction. I will like to know if i can trust you with my money, since the payment was mail out already... please i want you to remove the item from sales list i will get back to you with the tracking # from USPS so that you will know when to expect it. I include the mover funds along with your payment cos they need to pick some valuable item for me in your area. So when you receive the check get your item fee and the rest goes to the mover guy so that it will be delivered directly to my house. Let me read from you asap.

Note: His use of the English language should have been a red flag, and again I decided to follow through just in case this was an honest customer who was just as worried as I was about being scammed. I went out on Craigs List and removed my item and sent him the following at 9:41 PM.

I will go out to Craigs List and remove the item right now. Since I have never done Craigs List before, I trust that will be easy. Worst case I will get someone to help me with it tomorrow. I imagine I will get an email from them stating that I have taken it off and I will forward that to you. No problem with mover fee, but I must ask where you are? Could we deliver it?

Caryl

At 9:45 PM I emailed him to say: Well I just deleted it. Did not get email confirmation, but by tomorrow you should not see it there. If there is a problem, let me know. Caryl

At 11:45 AM on August 12, 2015 I received the following:

I just check on CL the post was deleted Thanks, I will get back to you with the tracking number tomorrow morning.

NOTE: He claims to have already sent the check on Aug 10., but the envelope the check arrived in has a postmark of Aug 12.

At 10:34 on August 13 I received the following:

Good morning, the check will deliver to you today, here is the usps

tracking number 9470101699320016812368 you can check the tracking

status on USPS.COM to confirm the time of delivery, let me read back

from you as soon as you receive the payment.

Regards.

At 12:54 PM he wrote:

PAYMENT WILL DELIVER TO YOU SOON.

Hello, the over payment on the check is meant to cover the cost of

shipment for the item am buying from you. More so, i still have some

other items in another location for the mover to pick up for me.

Once you get the check cashed, deduct your money for the cost of the

item + $50 for your running around. The Remaining Balance should

be sent to the Mover information below Money Gram.

Name-------Antonia Stratton

City-------Brockton

State------ MA

Zip code--- 02301

NOTE: Money Gram Transfer fee should be deduct from the balance you want to send. (Choose Money In minutes for the transfer options). Awaiting your response with PICK UP SCHEDULE and Money Gram transfer Details or Receipt

I ‘Googled’ Antonia Stratton and the only one I found in Massachusetts is listed below. She had formerly lived in Florida. Note that she is a payroll clerk and has access to checks and money. Does she represent the mover? Does she work for Timothy and have authority to pay the mover?

Antonia Stratton | LinkedIn

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/antonia-stratton/42/b32/915

Boston, Massachusetts - ‎payroll clerk at Payroll Services

View Antonia Stratton's professional profile on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the world's largest business network, helping professionals like Antonia Stratton discover ...

At 1:43 PM I responded: Timothy, I just checked the tracking. The item reached Greenville today and is on its way here. Were up n the mountains just over an hour from Greenville, so it may not get here till tomorrow. That is not a problem for me and I will surely let you know as soon as it arrives. My big question is this: It looks like the reformer will be shipped to Massachusetts and I need to know how it is to be prepared for shipment? Caryl

3:04 PM:

You will not shipped it, The Mover will come for the pick up after you

got your payment.

5:05 PM I wrote: Okay. Did not get anything in mailbox today, so it may be here tomorrow. In the meantime I gathered all the smaller parts for the machine and taped them securely together and to the machine so nothing will be lost or broken. I hope this will help the movers. We have made several moves and I know that sometimes they are not as careful as I would like them to be. I want this to be perfect when it arrives at your home.

5:36 PM: Okay, let me know once you receive the check tomorrow.

At this point there was still a small part of me that thought something was fishy. However I reasoned, it could be one of those wheeler Dealer guys who schmoozes his way through life and spends big on his wife for their anniversary and is so busy doing whatever he does, that extra money to keep things simple for himself is not unheard of, and just because he doesnt know how to use proper English, doesnt necessarily make him dishonest.

5:43 PM: I wrote,  Will do. I am trying to figure out this money gram. It looks like there may be three locations where I can take the money within about 30 minutes drive from here, but it is difficult to determine where they are, since the locations are quite remote and not labeled by name. Is there a way I can get the money to the person on line? I will follow up and look for the place, but our mail does not come till the afternoon and that makes it late to get to town. Id like to have it settled for you by the weekend.

6:06 PM : You can get Money gram at any walmart store close to you, visit any walmart store and get it done there.

6:21 PM Oh thank you. Its about 45 minutes away, but if I am sure to get It there, it will be worth it. I will call the post office and see if I can pick the check up in the morning. That will save time.

6:28 PM Just checked tracking number. They say it will be delivered at 3:00 PM. I guess I will need to wait here because there is no way of knowing when it will get to our post office. I should be able to do the Moneygram at Walmart on Saturday, but no way to get a check cashed at a local bank after 3:00PM.

7:43 PM Okay get it done as soon as you receive the check.

On the morning of the 14th and called our post office to see if the check had arrived, then asked them to hold it for me to pick it up. I intended to cash it at our bank and then find a moneygram  to send the money to the mover.  When I opened the envelope and saw a check for $3,150.00, a full $1,800.00 more than I was due I was shocked. What idiot would pay a mover $1,800 to move a $1,400 item?

I mentioned that to Cathie at the post office and she said, This is your lucky day. There was no way I was sending $1,800.00 off to a mover in MA to pick up something in Rosman, paid for with a check from Ohio. The signature on the check was illegible, but not that of Timothy Cavello. The Initials were more like CR. It was all very strange.

I went immediately to the Transylvania County Public Library to get internet access and Googled the name and address on the envelope containing the check: Looks like a legitimate ‘mover’, but why would a mover be sending a check to someone who was to then wire money to a mover who was really a payroll person?.

Matt J Mcdonald Co Inc - MotorCarriersAlliance.org

www.motorcarriersalliance.org/143143/matt-j-mcdonald-co-inc

 

Matt J Mcdonald Co Inc transportation service (USDOT# 472649) in 3 Anchor Way, Boston, Massachusetts, 02210, milage, class, fleet size, safety rating, cargo  ...

MATT J MCDONALD CO INC - BOSTON, MA - TruckDriver ...

www.truckdriver.com/trucking-company-directory/ShowDOTCo.cfm?...

Learn more about MATT J MCDONALD CO INC, BOSTON, MA on the number one truck driver job search site truckdriver.com.

Then I Googled the company issuing the check

 

    Rhinestahl Corporationwww.rhinestahl.com/

    

Since 1967, Rhinestahl has delivered on your toughest challenges. Whether it's OEM turbine engine tooling, precision manufacturing or innovative design and ...

    Rhinestahl Corporation Grows Again | Mason, OHwww.imaginemason.org/business/rhinestahl-grows-again.cfm

    Mason

Nov 14, 2011 - Rhinestahl Corporation, the Mason-headquartered supplier of aerospace tooling and high-tech machining expertise, is more than doubling the ...


n
mRhinestahl Corporation Selected as GE's OEM Authorized ...

They certainly looked legitimate, but something still seemed strange to me.

9:34 AM. I sent the following to Timothy

I picked up the check this morning. I want to be sure I understand correctly. I am to take $1,450.00 for myself to pay for Reformer and am to send $1,800.00 to the name and address you gave me using money gram. I will look for an answer from you soon.Here is my cell #..........You may call or text me. I am now on my way to the bank and will not receive email.

I got in the car and headed for the Wells Fargo Bank in Brevard, all the while hoping the whole thing would sort itself out.

9:41 AM a text from Timothy from telephone number; 774-234-7605:

Hi Caryl Z. Sweet this is Timothy.

Hi Timothy, Im just arriving at the bank. I want to be sure this is what you want me to do.

Yes, exactly, just have the check deposited and pull out the amount to be sent to my mover.

$1,800 for the mover. Correct?

Yes. Let me know as soon as you have the money and left the bank. Okay?

At the point when I was able to look at this text, I was already in front of the teller trying to cash the check.

I never intended to deposit the check because my gut told me I should have cash in hand before I would begin to believe this whole thing was real. I handed the check to the teller and at her request endorsed it and gave her my drivers license for identification.

I continued to receive texts from Timothy, so I was distracted, but I did notice the teller call over another teller and consult with her. Then she told me this was a scam. Well, I was surprised and I wasnt surprised. She told me she had gotten another similar check recently and it was a scam, so she was alert to this one. She said it is common for people to use Craigs List for such scams. They are waiting for people like me to send the moneygram. Then they take the money and run. Had I deposited the check and taken the money out to send to the mover, the check would have bounced and my account would have been closed. I would then have been labeled as a scammer and gotten a black mark on my name and credit. She advised me not to communicate any further with Timothy and to go to the police and report the incident. I was grateful that they had caught the scam and proceeded directly to the Brevard City Police Department.

The woman at the front desk at the police department asked me to take a seat and she would get someone to help me. When it appeared she was not even calling back for someone to help me, I told her that if they were too busy I would get help elsewhere. At that point a young man told me she was in training and that they would get help for me. After some time I rose from my seat to go and the young man told me the sergeant was on his way in to see me. A short time later, someone drove up in a police car, got out, came in the door and told me he would be right with me. He went back in the office area and returned a couple of minutes later to tell me he had to go somewhere and would get back to me. He went out the door and drove off in his car.

I asked for the telephone number of the Transylvania County Sheriffs Office. I called them and they told me that if I wanted to go there, they would talk to me about the incident.

There was a young man in uniform just outside the entrance to the sheriffs office who indicated that he was the one I had spoken to on the phone and that Brandon was prepared to talk to me inside. I went to the front desk and announced myself and was told to wait and that I should take a seat because it would probably be a while. I did not take a seat, but stood there. I had been getting one text after another from Timothy starting when I was at the bank. Knowing now that he was attempting to defraud me, I was trying to string him along in hopes that some smart law person could stop him in his tracks. So far I was not having much luck. 

My phone rang. It was an Asheville number and not one familiar to me. I answered it and heard: Caryl? Thees ees Ti MO thee. What ees Hoppening?

I told him I was unable to speak to him at the moment and would call him back.

He Texted me: re you with me?

Hello Caryl, re you still with me?

What is the problem? Re you still at the bank?

Yes. I lied. I didnt want him to know yet what was going on.

Oh Caryl, just have the check deposited okay, then pull out the money to be sent.

re you still on the line?

I really didnt want to talk to Timothy and I did not want to abandon him either, because with what I had in hand I thought there was a hope he could be located and apprehended.

I was tired of waiting for the busy police office to give me a minute of their time, so I went outside and engaged the young deputy sheriff who appeared to be waiting for someone.

I told him I did not need to make a report or anything. I just wanted someone to give me some feedback on how to handle this situation. I explained my situation as best I could and told him I still had this person hanging on the line in hopes we could catch him. He told me there were people who could do such things, but it was way above his pay grade. He went on to say Brandon was supposed to be speaking with me, but apparently had someone else in his office at the moment.

Just then two officers came out the door. The older of the two who was tall reddish blonde and probably in his forties asked about my situation and when I started to tell him what was going on he stopped me and said if I had stopped the scam, I was not a victim and they did not need to write a report. I said, Does that mean you arent going to do anything about it? I have all the proof of what happened right here with me. He said no, but youre not a victim so we dont need to write a report. I asked what they could do and he told me to tell everyone I knew what had happened. I said, So, you dont intend to do anything about it. He then went on to tell me about all the people who fell for ridiculous scams and got suckered out of huge sums of money and he couldnt understand how they could be so foolish. I turned my back on him and he left with the first officer I had spoken with. The remaining officer was Brandon. He was courteous and considerate, but obviously not in a position to be of any real help.

I got in the car and started for home. My phone was still being bombarded with texts from Timothy and I needed to deal with that. The woman at the bank had told me not to communicate with him at all. The police officer said to tell him I was on to him. I chose to text the following: Bottom-line Timothy, they caught the scam and sent me to the sheriffs office to report you. There will be no money.  I never heard from him again.

I must admit I came home elated about being saved from this scam. I give the bank a lot of credit for picking it up. Even though all the red flags were there, until I got that check I wasnt all that worried. I learned a lot, met some interesting people. Learned that the police dont do anything about these scams, so the scammers pretty much have free reign.  The company issuing the check may be legitimate, but someone has figured out how to use their checks. The person I was to send money to might be honest, but being used. Or could she be complicit?

It was not until I arrived home that I saw his email answers to me:

9:36 AM: Yes exactly, you re correct, please go ahead and handle this for me today.

9:37 Just have the check deposited and pull out the amount to be sent to my mover from the bank.

By the time I was getting his latest texts telling me to just deposit the check and send the moneygram, I should have known have it was a scam, but things were happening so fast, I needed the bank to tell me it was a scam. Lesson learned.

This is not a kind of scam I had ever heard about, but when I searched scams on the internet I discovered it is the 11th most common scam. The average person might have deposited the check (which is what he wanted me to do), but I chose to cash the check believing that when I asked for this amount of money, the bank would be extra careful about the validity of the check.

I went to the Wells Fargo bank on the following Monday and spoke with the manager, Tiffany Gentry. I thanked her for having such an on the ball staff and gave her a summary everything I had collected pertinent to the scam, explaining that I was disappointed in the Brevard Police Department and the Transylvania County Sheriffs Department for their lack of attention to this case.  She assured me that Wells Fargo has a procedure in place to take care of these situations. The phony check along with the information I gave her would be sent to a central office where such incidents would be dealt with.

I also sent an email to the Rhinesthal Company telling them about the check with their name on it and the scam. This is their reply:

Hi there,

I am sorry to hear about this. We unfortunately have had our account information stolen. That account has been closed due to the fraudulent activity.

Best,

Brittany Hoff

Brittany Hoff

Marketing Communications Specialist

 

Rhinestahl Corporation

7687 Innovation Way
Mason, OH 45040  USA

Sometimes we cant know when we are being scammed, but we can usually take a check to a bank and ask them to verify it before we either cash or deposit it. Since the bearer of the check seems to be the one with the most to lose, and can often be unaware they are being scammed, it is the very least we can do.