Liars, cheats and internet scammers. How can we use our creativity to stop them?

After a full week, last week, of teaching our first week of school at The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship, I arrived back to Lisa’s Clarinet Shop today exhausted and with a pile of customer inquiries and calls to return. I was so hyped up teaching last week- running in overdrive and so excited I had trouble sleeping- that finally this morning it caught up with me. My head was pounding and my vision and head all felt rather sluggish and blurry. It was going to be one of THOSE days.

As I opened emails and tried to access the landscape of work for the day, I found a couple of emails from high school parents sharing their stories about the ” budding” musician in need of a new clarinet, another from someone looking for an Eb and another from a gentlemen seeking to buy a clarinet for his wife as a birthday present. Increasingly I am finding adults coming back into music, drawn into my shop first through my high rank on Google and secondly through the ideas and posts from this blog. So I decided to email Eric back first since he was likely at work and able to find the time to chat about life, art, business and clarinets.

So I shot off an email to Eric Seaholm and went back to my cup of coffee. About twenty minutes later Eric responded and we began an email exchange. Most of my customers these days  prefer to communicate over email. It use to be I would pick up the phone and call, but now talking live really doesn’t happen much at all in business.

Eric and I must have exchanged 5 or 6 emails back and forth this morning discussing the various models of clarinets I sold and their playing characteristics. Our exchange started like every other exchange. “Hello,  I want to know if you have any of this instruments available in stock and their prices. I am interested in Buffet R13 Clarinet in Bb, A, and Eb, Tosca Clarinet in Eb and Festival Clarinets in Bb and A. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks, Eric.”

Since I don’t quote prices as a practice until I know if I can truly help my customer find what they need to sound and play their best, as usual, I told him I would not do this. His response was that he was looking for an instrument for his wife for her birthday and he really didn’t know what he was doing but just wanted to buy her a Tosca Bb (the most expensive Bb clarinet I sell.) He went on to ask me if I would be willing to pick it out for her and wrap it up as a birthday present  and send in the next day or so.

At this point, my internal alarm went off: ” This is not your customer. Your customers have lots of questions and want to discuss their needs. This guy wants to drop 6,000 in a flash no questions asked. Something is wrong. I bet this is fraud. ”

Having had this exact situation happen to me before, I asked “Eric” to email me his credit card information, expiration date, 3 digit validation date, billing address and shipping address. Notice below that his billing address is in Australia, the shipping address in Portland Oregon and his wife’s name does not even come close to matching his own? These too are BIG RED FLAGS.

From there I then proceeded to look up the shipping address on google maps. I think its a vacant lot in a commercial part of town.  Surely not his “home”, as he suggested I would be shipping to. Type 17483 SE Stark Street Portland, OR into Google maps yourself and tell me what you see.

What disappoints me the most about this situation is that when I tried to call my credit card processor and ask them to contact the bank, they told me the name of the bank in Singapore and said they could not take it any farther. I made a total of 10 calls to try and contact the bank in Singapore through various US means to no avail. I finally think I found a customer service email address- I hope its right- and sent this same info off to them in hopes they will cancel this poor guys credit card before its all charged up.

After that I then tried to contact the Portland police and made a total of 7 calls to them to no avail. No one wanted my information. I even tried calling crime stoppers for the area and was told that they could not take my information because I was not giving it anonymously. Incredible isn’t it?

They say Grafitti is a “gate-way” activity to higher levels of crime in communities. I think credit card scamming is the same and yet there are so many acts of fraud being committed on the internet that mostly they go by the way side.

So I decided to creatively solve the problem. Below you will find Eric’s email as well as the address of the location he wanted to deliver to. Feel free to drop him a line. And if you live in the Portland area you now know where a crime is being committed.  I have watched enough crime story shows to know that usually scammers like this set up “drop” addresses in vacant locations where a business close by ” claims” the packages are for them. These crimes impact lots of credit card holders and cost banks lots of money.

I find it pretty ironic that banks nickle and dime their upstanding customers with over the counter fees, while the thieves walk out the front door with the safe because no one is creative enough, or cares enough, to figure out how to stop them….



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