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Monday, July 16, 2012

Scam Email: Doris Howard

We've written about the scammer using the Doris Howard name before. I wanted to create a new post because a great reader of the blog, Tom, wanted to share his experiences with the Doris Howard scammer. It's long but you might find parts of it illuminating, particularly in how this scammer is trying to move Tom along in the scam. I have pasted below what Tom sent me. Thanks, Tom!

This is my experience with 'Doris Howard.' (davidhowardd08@gmail.com). 'She' contacted me through my website:

'Hi, Hope this message finds you well. I saw these creative works on your website and i will like you to get back with more details if they are still available for purchase.
10th Ave & 17th Street   and  View from the Pulaski Bridge II
I will appreciate an urgent reply.
Best Regards,
Doris Howard.

* I noticed some funny wording and punctuation: 'creative works', 'I will like you to get back', 'I will appreciate', 'an urgent'... I assumed that English isn't her first language and gave her the benefit of the doubt. I was flattered that her request for my art was 'urgent' but simultaneously  thought it was odd.
---
Doris Howard's next email: 'Thanks so much for your response to my query about those creative works. I will like to proceed with the purchase of  View from the Pulaski Bridge II. Can you pls get back with what motivate you to make the  artwork.
I will look forward to hearing from you soon .'

* More bad grammar: 'I will like', 'I will look', and some funny spacing between words. I was flattered that she wanted to know more about my 'motivation' for creating the art she was interested in, and I gave her a detailed response.
---
Doris Howard continues:
'I am presently away in Cancun for my twin sister's wedding even though it comes at a time when i was preparing for a big move and also expecting a baby  but it means so much to her. I should be back in few days.
Meanwhile,i will like you to forward your mailing address and phone number so i can inform my husband still shutling between our home in New Jersey and London on where to forward the payment . He has just been transfer to head the IT section of their head Office in London.
I can also forward your contact info to the local cartage company that will be moving all our house decors so they can get in touch with you to arrange shipping details. They can arrange  FedEx pick up of the artwork from your studio. I will look forward to hearing from you so i can know how best to proceed.'

* I felt impressed that Doris was 'living the life' internationally, and could fit me into her busy schedule. More bad grammar though. I did send her my address and number.
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There was all of a sudden a lapse of time where Doris didn't respond to my emails, but she re-appeared again:
'Hi Tom , Hope this message finds you well. I am very sorry that i couldn't get
in touch immediately. I was hospitalized in Cancun immediately after
my twin sister's wedding. I almost had miscarriage but thank God, i am
now feeling better and can't wait to have my baby and settle down.
I am not sure if my husband has been able to forward the payment to
your address. I will check with him and get back to you tomorrow
morning. Anyway, i have forwarded your contact info to the Moving
agency that will be handling the shipment of all our house decors.
They promise to get in touch with tomorrow. Try and arrange the
shipping details with them. I will like an update from you as soon as
you hear from the movers.
Try and get back as soon as you receive this email so i can be sure we
are on the same page. Thanks for your patient. Best Regards, Doris.'

* I felt some empathy for Doris who 'almost had a miscarriage', and it made me continue to be diligent in our correspondence.
---
Her 'mover', David Jones, (davmoverslogistics@yahoo.com) contacted me next:
Hi, I have received  communication from Mrs.Doris Howard that we should work with you to ship some artworks with her other house decors to her new house in London , UK  when you two are through with the transaction,as she advise.

I will like you to get back with the kind and nature of the things she want to ship.I will like to have your studio address ,so i can make arrangement  with any nearby Agent  that will be coming for the pick up  once you and Mrs.Howard are through with the transactions. Thanks. I will appreciate your earlier reply .

Regards, David Jones.
Dav Movers and Logistics  INC.
B12, THE BUSINESS CENTRE
davmoverslogistics@yahoo.com
T: 0870 863 9866
F: 0870 863 9867

* I saw more bad grammar and punctuation. What kind of phone numbers are those?
---
Doris got back to me:
'Hi Tom ,
Hope this message finds you well. Thanks so much for your patient regarding the transaction. It has been a very difficult time with a lot of things on the plate. Anyway , i  will like to inform you that the payment was sent by my husband's assistant on Friday via Royalmail and he was advise that you will receive it early this week so try and be on the look out for it.
I will also like you to have our address ,you can add it to your mailing list. I will like to hear about your future works and art shows. Our address in Newark is...
215 Walnut Street,
Newark NJ 07105
While our new address in UK is....
68b, Bryantwood Road,
Holloway, London, N7 7BE
UK
Meanwhile, i sent your contact info to the Moving agency that will be handling the shipment of all our house decors yesterday and he promise to get in touch with you.  Try and make shipping arrangement with them and keep me updated with details.
I will look forward to hearing from you soon as you receive this email so i can be sure we are on the same page. Thanks for your patient.
Best Regards, Doris.

* The fact that Doris gave me her two addresses from NJ and the UK to be included in my mailing list for shows seemed to show some authenticity. Still, bad grammar. But, I was now expecting a check for my painting. So, I waited. I told her that I wasn't about to make shipping arrangements with David Jones until I received her check, and until it cleared. She said 'Sounds good'. A period of time elapsed that concerned me, but finally I received a Fedex in the mail coming from a Medical Facility in Florida (not a letter from RoyalMail). And there was no note from her husband or his assistant addressing me, just a check from: East Coast Graphics INC', signed by 'Ronneloan' for over 3x the cost of the painting. I was puzzled and confused. I thought that there was a mix up that could be rational. I did remember that she was interested initially in another painting of mine as well. I checked my prices, and yes – the check was for the exact price of the other more expensive painting. I brought this to Doris' attention. She apologized and blamed her husband's PA who took things over while she was 'sick'. In the meantime, she told me:
'Anyway, i will like you to go ahead and deposit the payment, you can then remove the asking price for the painting and forward the difference back to him.'

* I made the deposit with my bank which I was told would clear in a couple days. I wasn't going to pay any difference until I saw that it cleared into my account. Doris then told me: 'Anyway , i  spoke with my husband and he will like you to forward the funds less charges via ( western union money transfer ) back to his PA at the address below.
Name - Mary Kiefer.
Address- 16246 California Street,
         Omaha, NE 68118
You don't need to have an account,swift codes or any bank codes but you  will have to pay western union fees which you can deduct from the difference. It is usually a meagre amount. After the transfer, you will need to get back  with the following information.
1.  Name and address of sender.
2.  Total Amount sent after deducting transfer charges.
3.  Money Transfer Control Number ( MTCN number ).
---

*At this point, I was irritated. I didn't like the idea of wiring her the difference. She was telling me what to do, when this 'overpay' was her mistake, not mine. I told her that I preferred to mail her a check, 'USPS certified mail comes with a tracking number that I can give you with the estimated time of delivery.' In the midst of this, she was insisting that I make arrangements with her movers to pick up the art, which I ignored.
She wanted to do it her way though, through her husband's PA: 'Regarding sending  Mary the funds through Western Union. I spoke with my husband to see how we can resolve this because he insist that you send it via WU. He is not comfortable with USPS because he had to rescheduled a meeting last week since a package needed for the meeting was delayed.

*I thought, why should he 'insist' I use Western Union when the Post Office is legit. And it was putting me through a lot of extra work to fix their problem. Also, how 'urgent' is a painting, even if it might be delayed? The last thing I told Doris was though, that I would send her the difference via Western Union the next day. But this is when red lights started going off in my head. I decided to do some investigating and I googled 'Doris Howard', trying to figure out if she was legit or not. And thankfully, I came upon this blog.... Now, does any of Doris' story sound familiar? H#ll yea! I was so glad I caught this!!

Doris asked me several times since my last message, if I made the transfer yet. I've been silent. I stopped returning Doris' emails and text. I went to my bank and explained this whole sequence. The check Doris sent me came from 'East Coast Graphics' and was signed digitally with the name 'Ronneloan' (is that a name or a loan?). The bank teller told me that this is how a scam like this works. 'Doris' stole the routing info etc from E.C.Graphics and created a 'legit' check that would deposit into my account. Only later would this real company discover that their funds were taken, and then take it back out of my account (if I had spent it or not). If I wired Doris the 'difference' that would have been my money taken. My loss.

Some thoughts to artists: 1) Always wait for a check to clear before you mail your art. 2) Know that when you wire through Western Union, the receiver remains anonymous, and its likely you won't be able to trace or recover funds sent. 3) Do some background checking online if you find a 'client' suspicious. Is their grammar off? Is it 'urgent'?

5 comments:

  1. Great stuff! Just got an "urgent" e-mail from a buyer who was supposedly out of town-- riddled with poor grammar-- very suspicious. Your post confirmed my suspicions. Won't be accepting or cashing any cashiers checks from that one. Thank you!

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  2. They're attempting to scam me with this as well. Thank you for publishing this. I wish there was something we could do to stop them.

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  3. Got the same exact email from "Lisa James" using the email lizzywittt000@gmail.com

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  4. The best response I've found so far is to set up a link to a "Policy for suspicious cheques" as part of a Sales page and to send a hyperlink to that page back in my reply. That tends to stop further attempts.
    Tom : - )

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  5. Tom, thanks for the suggestion. I'm not sure responding to scammers matters much - they are in a numbers game and just looking for people who WILL step through all the steps of the scam, but I can see where having a policy and sending them that link quickly ends it because then they know you are not one of those people they should spend any time on and they move on to someone else.

    I usually recommend just not replying at all, the same as you would not reply to a regular spam email. Delete it and move on. Then you are not even verifying your email as active for them. You are not giving or verifying any information about you at all.

    But I'm glad you have a system to quickly end these for yourself and came and shared it in case someone else wants to use that approach as well. Thanks.

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