Louisville Catering Business Is Targeted By Stolen Credit Card Scam

August 21, 2008

A local caterer contacted the Better Business Bureau after getting an e-mail from a woman named “Nancie” stating that she wanted to have “a reunion party” for 50 guests at her residence on August 30th. “Nancie” outlined the desired menu and concluded the message by asking, “Do you accept credit card payments? Also, can you help conduct payments to other vendors to make the transaction easy for us?”

The question about handling payments to other vendors is the first tipoff to the BBB that this is a scam.

Anytime someone wants to pay you, whether by check or credit card, and asks that you wire part of that payment to someone else, for any reason whatsoever, don’t do it! You can be almost 100% sure that the check is bogus or the credit card number used to make the payment to you has been stolen. If you wire money from these transactions to someone else, for any reason, that money will be “long gone” before the fraudulent nature of the check or credit card payment is detected.

This week’s scam attempt against the local caterer was fairly sophisticated. After receiving the initial e-mail, the caterer had replied with a per person price for providing the food and indicated that she did accept credit cards. She asked “Nancie” to elaborate on what she meant in asking the caterer about “paying other vendors.” The reply from the would-be customer, “Nancie,” said this would involve paying $2500 for video and a DJ. The customer asked, “Get back to me so you can charge all the payments together and have her (the video/DJ person) paid because she does not have a credit card facility.”

When the caterer replied by providing her phone number and saying, “I need you to contact me before I can move forward,” the would-be customer replied, “I am hearing impaired, this is why I cannot call you,” and then went on to provide the name and address of the vendor for video and DJ services, which was an address in Denver, Colorado.

The caterer replied that she needed the credit card number, which she would run immediately, and that she (the caterer) would send a check to the vendor once the credit card payment had posted to her account. This was fine with the would-be customer, except she was not sure whether the video/DJ vendor would accept payment by check.

In a second reply, the would-be customer said, “she (the vendor) refused to receive checks,” and that the payment would need to be sent via Western Union money transfer or by a wire transfer directly to her bank account.

The would-be customer also provided the Louisville address for a residence in Polo Fields where the “reunion party” was to be held. One problem: the Polo Fields address provided to the caterer is a vacant home and the Realtor handling the sale of the home says that no one named “Nancie” or “Nancy” is connected with the home.

In this case, the caterer was careful and contacted the BBB before going further in dealing with this would-be customer. The BBB professional who spoke with the caterer immediately identified this as a scam and told the caterer that the credit card number (or numbers) that would be provided to pay for the catering, as well as $2500 for the video and DJ, are stolen credit card numbers that will probably work initially. But within a few days, it will be determined that these are fraudulent transactions and the caterer’s bank account will be debited for the unauthorized credit card charges. If the caterer in the meantime had wired money, either by Western Union or wire transfer, this money would have been lost to the scammers.

Bottom line: don’t wire money, for any reason, to anyone that you don’t know personally and trust completely.