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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Scam Email: Michael Kleemann

Kathleen,

I have a website which I'm still working on, from which I sell the odd painting. While I do illustrate scientific journals, I also do "gallery art" or whatever you call it, but I keep it all simple.no galleries, no reproductions, low prices, direct transactions and so on.

Anyway, last October a "Michael Kleemann" contacted me, purporting to be a businessman in Texas, on the cusp of moving to Turkey.   He wondered if I had any other paintings to offer but the then relatively few for sale on my website (I still have only posted a fraction of what is available). Not knowing what his interest was, I just said that I did and sent him a few samples.

He choose the [name of piece], and the [name of piece]. The former is framed, so I told him the shipping would therefore be more expensive than if it weren't framed and made some sort of general conversation about my love of Texas, and southwestern birds.   But I admit alarm bells were already ringing in my head as most first-time buyers express their interest in birds or comment on art or whatever, and Michael Kleemann was very terse, polite, but nothing personal.

He said that because he was moving he was in a state of flux and would it be okay if me mailed me the money in advance, with enough to pay the shipper at the door.

I had explained that I normally use a specific courier because I it is a local family-run company that I've dealt with, favourably, for years.

He instead said that he'd have his movers in Canada do the actual shipping.

That seemed strange, but hey, maybe he was a wealthy Texas business guy with all kinds of flunkies working for him, and a finger in many different corporate pots.

So I said, well, okay, fine.

But nothing happened.

Then, last Monday, my stepdaughter said there was a folder leaning up against the front door.  It was from UPS.  It contained a single check (or "cheque" as we write it up here) and it was $3,599.00.   An odd sum.  I had no idea what it was for.  It was a company cheque, and the company was in Manitoba, as was the credit union it was drawn on.  Google showed both existed.but the company manufactures medical equipment.   I have only sold two or three paintings to Manitobans, none recently, no one there owes me anything and I don't produce a darn thing that would be of interest to a manufacturer of medical imaging equipment.

Then I remembered Michael Kleemann.  Could this be the money he had mentioned?   If so, it was way too much, approximately twice what would have been necessary for the arrangements we had made.

Sure enough, I got an e-mail from him after all that time, with an apology for the delay in getting back to me.

The next morning I phoned the company named on the cheque.  "It's fake," I was told by the guy before I had fully explained the situation.  "And I bet it's for more than had been agreed upon."  It was.  It turns out that a lot of these cheques were out there and the company quite annoyed, but helpless to do anything.

It took nearly two days to get a live person cop on the line, but I did this morning, and he opened a file, taking down all the particulars, which will then be distributed to fraud departments worldwide.  

Michael Kleemann (obviously an alias) could be anywhere.  He did write to me the name of the "shipper" (a "company" based in Alberta) and a "tracking number" and so on, but the cop also advised me not to open any more e-mails from Michael Kleemann, as they could include viruses (it appears not, thank goodness, but that could change), and certainly not to respond to him again (my last message was designed to keep him interested as I hoped the police might be able to find him by intercepting the shippers, and I'm more than happy to be part of a "sting" if we can catch this crook.  
But I will take his advice.   I do have a viewing pane so when Michael Kleemann wrote to me this morning that, okay, he'd wait until the new year (I told him I'd be away until then) I was able to read it even if I didn't open the message.  

But the other thing the cop told me was that by virtue of my having responded, this person, or one of his or her colleagues, may try another scam, so I am now more on guard than before.

Frankly, it was a rather clumsy effort, but I HAVE sold art (and developed online friendships) from "cold" contacts, usually word-of-mouth, but a few times via my website, and I have sent art off to first-time-buyers before receiving payment.  A sophisticated businessman I'm not.

I've never been cheated, but obviously I now will modify that practice for the first-time buyers.  

I don't know if any of this will help anyone avoid being taken, but I felt better to tell you all then not.

I will forward his e-mails to you one by one, under separate e-mails (I'm not very computer-adept so it's the only way I know to do it).  


Cheers,
Barry

25 comments:

  1. Barry, thank you for sharing your story. I will post the additional emails you sent me because I think it nicely illustrates how scammers work this type of scam. Others will learn from it, so again - thank you for contributing to keeping everyone a little bit safer from this scam.

    The good news is - you DIDN'T get cheated. The thing that saved you was knowing enough to call the company on the check to see if it was legitimate. Good for you. Your bank could have also helped confirmed if it was a counterfeit.

    There are two things to keep in mind to avoid this scam:

    1. Do not accept overpayments for any reason when selling your artwork online. The scammer may want to make you feel guilty for not "helping them out" but this is what they are counting on - that artists want so much to sell their art that they will do anything to help the deal go through. It's a trap. Just say it is not your business practice to accept overpayments and you handle shipments yourself. Scam will end.

    2. NEVER ever ever ever ever wire money to anyone for ANY reason when selling your artwork online. ANY reason. Just don't do it. Practice this rule and you won't lose money to this type of scam.

    Okay, I will post your emails showing how this scammer proceeded to engage you until you figured it out.

    ReplyDelete
  2. First Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Friday, October 16, 2015 9:19 AM
    To:
    Subject: Artwork enquiry

    --
    Hope this message finds you well,im Michael from Texas,was browsing through the internet and my eyes caught some of your works and I'm interested in purchasing some of your artworks for some spaces within my new house to make it unique and beautiful.Can I have few images of your recent works?I won't mind having your main website so as to explore more into your works.kindly reply with your cell number.
    Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Second Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Friday, October 16, 2015 11:31 AM
    To: Barry
    Subject: Re: Artwork enquiry

    Hi Barry,
    Thanks for your message,regarding the attachment,after a keen look at the images,i have found these works interesting(image 1.jpg and image2.jpg),may i know their pricing and availability.
    Any additional information about the artworks would be appreciated.

    Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Third Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2015 7:44 AM
    To: Barry
    Subject: Hello Barry

    Thanks for the details,i wish to have these works,the prices are okay by me and i'm interested in the immediate purchase,could you send me your full name as you want it written on a cheque and your mailing information so that i can have my company cut out a cheque to you.
    My new home is in Turkey so you don't have to worry about shipment,my mover will handle it. I hope this goes well with you.

    Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fourth Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2015 11:18 AM
    To: Barry
    Subject: Payment/shipping arrangement

    Thanks for the details which Ive noted down and have also forwarded it to my shipper.He's due in Canada sometime next week and will definitely be getting in touch with you for the pick up.The truth is,i would have handled this much differently if i would be at home but Im a bit pressed for time myself.

    I will be moving to Turkey in three weeks time.As it is, I'm sending you an overdraft which will include my shippers fees as well.Im trying to kill two birds with a stone.So,once you've received and cashed the cheque,deduct your payment for the artwork and PLEASE help me send the remaining funds to(Mover).

    I'll forward his contact details to you once you've received the payment.Now I'm concluding you are a responsible person and I can therefore entrust you with this arrangement.Ill let you know Immediately the cheque is sent out to you so you should be looking out for it.

    P.S:I`ll require that a reconfirmation of your address is done for me now. I await your reply.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Fifth Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2015 2:29 PM
    To: Barry
    Subject: Re: Payment/shipping arrangement

    Hi Barry,
    Thanks for your understanding,i will have your payment prepared and have it mailed,kindly notify me as soon as you receive the payment.

    Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sixth Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Monday, December 21, 2015 2:28 AM
    To: Barry
    Subject: Hope this message finds you well

    Hello Barry,
    Hope this message finds you well,i was away on a business trip and that was the reason for the delay in the payment,i had called for the delivery of the payment and i was told the payment would be delivered to you this week and will email you the tracking number for the payment as soon as i have it.
    Sorry for the inconveniences.

    Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Seventh Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 12:30 PM
    To: Barry
    Subject: Payment tracking number

    Here is the payment tracking number(E852 861 5654),you can check its status via www.ups.com,kindly shot me an email as soon as you receive it.


    Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Eighth Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 4:02 PM
    To: Barry
    Subject: Re: Payment tracking number

    Im glad you got the payment,i want you to deduct the payment for the pieces and send the remaining fund to the mover via moneygram.

    Here is the movers information:
    Kayla Christine Schlaugat
    319 Juniper Crescent,
    Calgary,Alberta,T2B2R2

    Upon receiving the payment,my mover will call you to set up the best time,date and location for pick up.
    I want you to deduct all the transfer charges from the remaining fund and email me the receipt as soon as you have it sent.


    Honestly i cant wait to have those pieces in my possession.
    Michael.

    FYI:i could supply you the moneygram location around you if necessary.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ninth Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Thursday, December 24, 2015 6:51 AM
    To: Barry
    Subject: Re: Payment tracking number

    Hello Barry,
    Just wondering if you did receive the movers information I sent to you earlier,kindly let me know the best time,date and location for pick up.

    Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Tenth Email Sent to Barry:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Michael Kleemann [mailto:mmmoreef@gmail.com]
    Sent: Thursday, December 24, 2015 9:29 AM
    To: Barry
    Subject: Re: Payment tracking number

    Its okay,i will await your message.

    Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Scammers are well rehearsed on how to talk through their fake story and keep potential victims moving along the scam "funnel" towards giving up their money. They try to humanize their story as much as possible and appeal to the good nature of people that want to help other people out (as well as appeal to artists who are mostly kind and are motivated to do what it takes to sell their art).

    But the framework of this scam has not changed in decades. They pretend to buy something - anything. They have a story about why they are going to overpay and they have a story about why it would be so helpful to have the seller WIRE the overpayment elsewhere (to a non-existent shipper, back to them because their accountant or wife "made a mistake", etc.), and once the scammer picks up the wired money, it is untraceable and as good as cash, the scam is over, and they are on to the next potential victim.

    It has to be a largely successful framework because its been in operation ever since I can remember.

    All we can do is keep sharing our stories and warning other people so they never reach the part of the scam where they are wiring money to help out a "buyer".

    Again, Barry, thanks for sharing all your emails so others can read through them and learn what these may look like.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm sorry this happened to you and he used my name I'm really upset this happened and he used me as the middle person

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for starting this helpful blog! I recently had an inquiry from a Christopher Chong. supposedly an offshore engineer who wanted to purchase between 5-11 of my artworks.

    1st email said: Never meant to bother you with my email, as I saw your artist profile/ images of your paintings online. And it would be my wish coming true if i could purchase paintings from your portfolio, kindly state the names, price range, sizes of paintings currently available for sale in your portfolio? Once i have your response then i know how to proceed.

    Looking forward to your email reply, with more details and insight about your paintings.

    Regards.

    After a few rather long email exchanges between us, I am now thinking that he/she is probably a scammer even though we have not gotten to a point of him sending an over-payment yet. At this point, he has chosen the artwork and has told me he wants to pay by credit card, not paypal.

    I put in one of his phrases to do a google search, and this blog came up at the top of the search. Shortly after, my son looked up his IP address and it shows from Manassis, Virginia and that this person apparently only visited my site long enough to go directly to the contact page and email me the above email.
    He claimed to be on an offshore rig and wanted to have the artwork sent to an address in Singapore and was going to check with his colleagues on the best shipping option. I'm bummed that this isn't real as I went out of my way to send him samples. Oh well, at least it got me to sort through many of my artworks and organize better. Thank you for your help with this blog!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Well, Ive just been hit by the same scam as above..wanted to buy 5 of my paintings..wouldnt use paypal..and said same thing about the colleagues for info on shipping...How cruel..i was really excited..but i never fully believed him..was waiting for the wammy!!..lol My guys name was Peter Chao from singapore..worked on rig..gave me address 03-54 equatorial apartments, 52 Meyer Road 437875 Singapore

    ReplyDelete
  16. I've been contact by the scammer who uses the name: Christine Cirillo <cinecrllo7@aol.com. Claims to live in Greece and wants to buy three paintings. Asked for the price but never asked for the size (dead giveaway). Also wanted to use their own shipper.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hello anonymous, I've also been contacted by the same Christine Cirillo, same email address, with the same story. This "customer" wanted us to ship 3 leather bags using her shipping company Expert Conveyors www.expertconveyors.com, which I believe is a fake company.

    I found from the email address that this person is based in Nigeria (IP address 197.210.16.11) and has a history of scams. In any case I believe the plan was for this person to get us to pay the fake shipping company, then disappear.

    Days later I was contacted by another person:

    Mr Chris Gardner.
    Tycriot PV store
    Brgy. 74, Zone 10
    CBP-1A, Pasay City
    1300 Philippines
    Telephone: 032) 516-3056
    Email: crisgardener@hotmail.com

    Can't be too careful!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I was also contacted by "Chris Gardener". Wanted to buy over $5,000 worth of product which seemed too good to be true.

    Also wanted to use his own freight forwarder.

    After some research online I found this blog post.

    Thank you as now my suspicions have been confirmed!

    ReplyDelete
  19. My wife was just contacted by Mr. Gardner?? (same contact information and address), who wants to buy $2,100 of my wife's quilt patterns. Same story!

    ReplyDelete
  20. got one of these recently. From an "Andrew Mark." Keywords- "immediate purchase" "shipping agent"

    ReplyDelete
  21. "Chris Gardner" also contacted my company on July 25, 2016 for products, using his own freight forwarder. I asked for wire transfer and he got all crazy saying he was an American living in Phillipines and only used Visa/MC no Pay Pal. He is a big fat fraud. No deal here in Michigan.

    ReplyDelete
  22. November/December 2016.
    Contacted by Peter Chao who wanted to buy three paintings. I looked up his desired payment system which came back really sketchy. I then googled his name, which brought me here. I have told him to stick-it, and have forwarded his information to the RCMP.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Also contacted by Peter Chao wanting to buy my work and telling me he works on a rig in Singapore and will open a gallery soon as he retires. Also has no website at this time. Glad to check out this web site.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I've been in contact with the same Peter Chao in Singapore scam over the past week. I have engaged the conversation but have been suspicious all along. The only thing I sent were a few jpegs of images and I did include my mailing address in getting an estimate from his recommended shipper. Is there anything I need to be concerned with now? I don't believe I have given anything yet to do anything with.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I also was contacted by Peter Chao two days ago:

    Pardon my email inquiry, as only recently came across your artist profile and saw images of your work online. Really it would be wonderful purchasing paintings from you directly, hope you do not mind stating the names, price range, sizes of paintings in your collection you currently have available for sale and willing to sell? Await your email reply so i know how to proceed.

    ReplyDelete