This is a recent email conversation that I had with what started out sounding like a potential new client. As the conversation continued over a few days I became more and more suspicious of a SCAM and ultimately ended it after doing some research. This post is kind of long but I hope by including the entire dialog others will be able to avoid similar scams.
An email arrives from Donald Doggette (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Donald: Hello, My name is Donald Bowers I got your information online for computer repair services, Let me know if you can do this? and do you accept credit card as method of payment? Hope to hear from you soon
At this point I am not thinking SCAM but I do think it is odd that his email is from Donald Doggette with an odd email address and he calls himself Donald Bowers. He also uses broken English. But I’m game to see where this goes.
Me: Hi Donald, Thank you for reaching out to me. Please tell what kind of computer repair you are talking about and where you are located. Yes I do accept credit cards and look forward to doing business with you.
Donald: Thanks for the response. I would need your help i have 20 used HP pavilion 500-281 desktop running window 7 pro,I want them wiped and load to window 10 can you handle that?….if Yes i need you to tell me what is the total cost estimate for this service and I want them done in your location i have make arrangement with a driver that will bring them and also pick it up as soon as it’s ready.Cause i won’t be coming in with the driver due to my current health status. I’m currently under intensive care in preparation for my surgery,I will need your address and your full name for delivery.. I’m doing the booking since the whole surprise is my idea and i will be responsible for all payment.
Note that he does not give me his location, uses more broken English and the use of a driver is odd. So now I am suspicious but still curious. I am actually thinking that the 20 computers may be stolen. So I continue.
Me: Hi Donald, I would be happy to help you with this project. Just a few more questions.
1) Are all 20 computers identical?
2) Do you already have the 20 Windows 10 Pro licenses?
3) Will you need me to install any other software?
4) What is your time line?
Please keep in mind that I work out of my house. Handling this project here is not an issue but I wanted to make you aware.
Donald: Hello Thanks so much for the swift responds. to answer your question all the 20 computer are not identical and i don’t have window 10 licensees so Please i will need you to do all that for me so kindly get back to me with the total cost Estimate so we can proceed forward..
He really wants to know the total cost and is in a rush for such a large project. Major Scammer Flags. In retrospect I see that all his answers lead to a bigger more costly job.
Me: Hi Donald, The cost for Windows 10 Pro is $XXX per computer. The cost for Windows 10 Home is $XXX per computer. I will need you to pay for this up front.
Since the computers are not identical I will have to perform the install individually. Not a problem just more time consuming. I will install Windows 10 up to the welcome screen (Out of Box condition). For that service I charge $XXX per computer. This can be paid when you pick up the computers.
Donald: Hello that sound good so can you let me know the total cost estimate so I can make a deposit Upfront and i will be balancing you ones the job is done
At this point I know it is a scam. He still has not answered half my questions and he is unable to do the math to calculate the total. But I am still not sure what the scam will be. So I continue.
Me: Hi Donald, The total charge to install Windows 10 Pro on 20 computers is $X,XXX. This includes the 20 licenses and my labor. I will require an initial payment of $X,XXX to cover the cost of the licenses before I begin the work. The balance of $X,XXX is to be paid when you, or your driver, pick up the computers.
Please call me to finalize the details.
Donald: Hi Thanks for the info. I want you to know that your estimate cost meet up with my initial budget for the computer repair service and I am ready to make a deposit payment of $X,XXX. What is the name of merchant you process Credit cards payment through and it’s % per charges. The reason I ask was because I don’t feel comfortable using merchants like PayPal or Square. i’ve had issues with them in the past for double charging and late remittance so please before i will send you my credit card information to process for the charges i will need a little favor from you?.
I am still not sure how he will try to scam me but that fact that he wants to avoid PayPal and Square sets off all kinds of bells and whistles.
Me: Hi Donald,
I use the square.
Donald: I don’t feel comfortable using merchants like PayPal or Square. i’ve had issues with them in the past for double charging and late remittance. Can you look into a different merchant to take my card? I know they might request a set-up fee or some form of tax, so i will be responsible for all form of expense resulting from it Unfortunately I can only make payment with my credit card. Can you obtain a credit card merchant and have them set you up to accept credit cards? Here are couple merchants i know they are reliable. phoneswipe.com, ipaymentech.com, ipaymentinc.com, Elavon.com, Chase PaymenTech, Clover.com, Merchantone.com, Gravitypayment. You can signup with clover.com they are fast convenient and reliable. In 48hrs after you sign up machine is sent to you and up running and they clear funds 24hrs once charged on my card.i will be responsible for all form of expense resulting from it
Finally I decide to do a little digging around to see if this is a common scam. I searched for some of his verbiage but did not find any matches. Finally I stumble upon some common a PayPal scams. I believe his plan was to find a merchant that I was not using, send me an email with a link to that system so I can set up an account. However the link will take me to a fake site where I naively give them all my checking account information. Pretty scary, right? So I asked again for a phone call.
Me: Hi Donald,
Please feel free to call me to discuss this further.
Donald: Hello, I want you to know that it would have been more easier for me to make the reservation over the phone but dr advice me to stay away from phone calls until after my surgery so i can only be reach via email or text at the moment. Sorry for the inconvenience.
At this point I decide to play coy to see how aggressive he would get.
Me: Hi Donald, I am sorry to hear that. Good luck.
I never heard back.
For more information about this type of SCAM and others, please check out this link. I am convinced that he going to try #17 but with a different merchant.