Local spa averts near-financial blunder; overpayment scam uses fraud credit card

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

Getting seven new clients in January sounded like a great idea to Tawni Peterson, co-owner of the Clearwater Wellness Spa on Broadway Avenue, in Boise.

“When she contacted us, she requested the ‘basic organic facial treatment’ for seven people, at one hour for each person,” Peterson says. “That’s $65 each for the organic facial.”

She responded to the email inquiry from Mary Smith, giving her the business address, her cellphone number, and types of credit cards accepted. The total cost: $455.

Wellness Spa business co-owner Sheila Miller squirmed as she read the response from Mary Smith, who never identified herself otherwise.

Here’s the response from Mary Smith:

“Thank you very much for the total cost for the 7 people, i really  appreciate that and I want you to do me a little favor and the favor is that i have not pay for the driver that will bring everyone of them to your shop and i can’t do that myself, Because i am at the hospital and would undergo an ear surgery in few days, so my condition is restricted , so i will like you to include extra $700 plus the total price of the Facials so that you can have all charge on My credit card now and you will have $700 send via western union to the driver and add extra $80 tip for your self and add $60 for the western union fee, so go ahead and add everything up and let me have the total so i can email you my credit card now for the full payment now.”

Miller immediately contacted BBB.

This is a typical overpayment scam. Here are red warning flags:

  • The inquirer offers to pay more than the asking price of an item or service.
  • A portion of the money paid for the items or service is expected to be sent back to the sender or given to a third-party. Western Union or wire transfers of money is requested.
  • The name on the check does not match the company name or person making the purchase or receiving the service.
  • Email correspondence has several misspellings and obvious grammar mistakes; it may seem to be from someone outside of the country. Contact is done by fax, email or text.

Can you spot the red flags in Mary Smith’s email?

The scam artists use fake or stolen checks or stolen credit card numbers. Businesses discover, usually after they’ve transferred funds to the scam artist, that the money never comes or the money arrives but is stolen from another person or business’ account. This can put a freeze on the business’ account and requires the business to pay back the money to the rightful owner, including the funds sent to the scam artist.



Filed under Scam alert

3 responses to “Local spa averts near-financial blunder; overpayment scam uses fraud credit card

  1. KM

    I just received a similiar email..the red flag was western union..I’m posting on fb and twitter to keep these scammers at bay!

  2. Mark Burrows

    The first red flag that stood out is the name Mary Smith. This is a foreign linguistic error assuming that the name Mary Smith is so common it would go without notice. The opposite it true, for the last four decades North Americans have gone out of their way to make their names appear more unique and noble. Those with last names such as Smith will often hyphenate it with a maiden name. I know that I am not the best at sentence construction and often fail to proofread my own email before I send them, but I expect that is because I do spend a great deal of time using messenger programs to talk to people worldwide to understand their behaviour. Still, the reason I do this is because it allows me to learn the patterns each country or culture uses when they attempt to communicate to us in English. Mary Smith’s message has a definite Asian tone to it. She does not capitalize “i” in referring to herself. She starts a sentence with “Because”. An outstanding red flag is explaining that she is doing everything from a hospital bed and organizing this grand plan involving several clients, a driver, Western Union, and doing favours. The response to Mary Smith would be simple. Sorry, our policy dictates identification be used when paying with credit cards. If she wishes to send a photo of her drivers license or passport which she can take with the webcam in the laptop she is likely using and forward it with the credit card number, full name on the card, and the code on the back. Then when all is quickly verified we can proceed. Being the scam that it is, only one of two things will result. First, Mary will reply back with a truck load of excuses why she can not comply. This will only prove that she is an amateur, because she does not realize that you are on to her and she still believes you are a target. Second, if she is a pro, she will not reply. Professionals do not push their luck.

  3. Pingback: Bogus email request targets Bogus Basin Road spa retreat | snakeriverBBB

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