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Tucson - Workers with Acosta Landscaping were installing an irrigation system in the backyard of a Northwest side home this week. Acosta is a small, family-owned business trying to get by. The company was contacted recently by a guy who said he wanted some work done.
"Don't fall for it, because it's only a scam to clear your account out and it's really bad," Veronica Acosta told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.
Veronica and her husband Renee own Acosta Landscaping. She recently got texts from a man asking how much it would cost for all the trees to be removed at a central Tucson home. Veronica said it would cost $2100. The caller said that'd be fine, but he wanted to pay her a lot more.
Veronica said, "He told me if it would be OK for him to send me $4000 extra so that I would be able to deposit that into somebody else's account for him." Veronica says that made her think, "Something fishy is going on, it's too good to be true. This guy is trying to do something illegal and it didn't sound right."
This is a new twist on the old overpayment scam that's hit consumers.
"Now, now they're just kind of moving their focus towards businesses and wanting to take advantage of them," says Susann Miller of the Better Business Bureau. She says this is a type of money laundering, with the scammers paying with a stolen credit card.
Miller said, "The scammer is getting money back from that credit card that they stole, now it's cash for them. And the check, they now have laundered money into another account
The guy who texted Veronica told her his name is "Leumy Tommy." He told her he also wanted a south side home that he claimed to own pressure-washed and painted. But we spoke to the woman who really owns the house, as well as the realtor selling the central Tucson home where he wanted the trees removed. They said, and county records show, that "Leumy Tommy" doesn't own either home. And they never heard of him.
We asked Veronica to call "Leumy Tommy" while we were there. After we identified ourselves as being with the News 4 Tucson Investigators, he answered some questions. He said he does own both homes, that he just recently bought the south side house. We asked him why he wanted to overpay Veronica $4000. He said he needed medical help. At one point, he sounded like he broke down crying, or wanted us to believe he was crying. When we asked him if he's ripping people off, he screamed, "No, no, no. I'm not ripping people off. I don't like when someone tells me I'm scamming someone."
When we asked him where he was, he said he was in "St. Nicholas Hospital" in Nevada. However, the Nevada Hospital Association says there is no St. Nicholas Hospital in the state. When we asked him why, if he has medical bills, he would overpay Veronica, he hung up on us.
And there's more: The owner of the south side home told us that a landscaper recently showed up at her house with a contract to do the pressure washing and painting, but the homeowner knew nothing about it. Apparently, that landscaper fell for the scam.
Miller of the BBB has this advice: "Ask for the information on this client, so that they have to give you all of their information, their email, their address, their telephone number. If they're a scammer, they're not going to provide that information."
Veronica Acosta said if she could talk to the guy again, "I would tell him, 'You know what, we're onto your scam, and stop doing it. Because we all work very hard for our money and starting a business is very hard.'"
If you get one of these calls you should file complaints on the Better Business Bureau's scam tracker site by clicking here: https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us and with the Arizona Attorney General https://www.azag.gov/complaints/consumer
It is very hard for law enforcement to find the scammers because they use fake phone numbers and are almost always overseas.
If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at email@example.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.