(Tribune (Mesa, AZ) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 21--The Internet has rapidly and completely changed the way people do business. More and more transactions are completed with little to no human interaction. As one local woman recently learned, you can never be too careful when dealing with people you don't know, especially via computer.
Marcia Kennedy, a financial adviser for Country Financial in Mesa, moonlights as a Mary Kay salesperson. She said she doesn't go out of her way to advertise herself and mainly uses it to do group orders for family and friends. She does, however, receive orders infrequently, so when she got a text recently from a local number requesting an order, she thought nothing of it.
The order started via text and moved from there to email. The woman, who called herself Jessica Stone, claimed to live in Phoenix but said that, due to deafness, preferred to deal via email. She requested some $300 in products and agreed to pay via check through the mail. Again, Kennedy saw nothing out of the ordinary with this, but did hold the actual order until she received the funds.
Then things got weird. In the next few emails, Kennedy was told that her customer's accountant had mailed the check and included "some extra money" that Stone said she hoped could be sent back to her along with her order.
This is the point where Kennedy said she began to grow suspicious. Those who are more familiar with dealing over the Internet, via sites like eBay or Craigslist, may already be able to spot the telltale signs of a scam. Kennedy, however, doesn't make much use of sites like those and so lacked the requisite experience.
Sgt. Anthony Landato of the Mesa Police Department said this is the point where it is safest to just pull out of the transaction and ignore any further contact.
"There is no legitimate company that will send you a check for more and ask you to send some back," said Landato. "The best thing that anyone can do is absolutely don't get involved with it."
He also added that, in trying to track the origins of scams like this, the trail often goes cold after to leading to other states or other countries.
Unlike other common scams, this one seemed to be more vigorously pursued, perhaps due to Kennedy's earlier comfort and compliance. When the check showed up at her door, it was delivered by FedEx with a handwritten return address in Texas, although the tracking number led back to a drop box in Scottsdale. It was a printed check, supposedly from a medical company in Nebraska, and was made out for a stunning $1,980.
"When I opened the envelope and it was 1,900 dollars, I said, 'Done'," said Kennedy.
Kennedy said the next morning, she received another email with very forceful directions as to exactly how to deposit the check and return the remaining funds. At this point, Kennedy's good sense and training as a financial adviser kicked in -- she absolutely refused to go along any further and demanded that her customer void the check and reissue for the proper amount.
She did take the check to her local Chase branch and asked them to look at it. They advised her that the check was a fake. She considers herself lucky to have gotten through this ordeal with no financial loss and wants others to be aware of this sort of thing.
"I just think that too often ... things have happened that are clearly deceptive. I think that people don't report it and we go around unaware. It's just basically awareness ... that we need to alert people to the scams that are going on," said Kennedy.
Contact writer: (480) 898-6581 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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