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The Embarrassing Cheque Scam

 

This is a controversial scam because it may only be an urban legend. That has not stopped in being referenced in the film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and the television series Eureka Street. The reason it may be an urban legend is that no one has ever admitted to being caught out by it. Doing so would just be too embarrassing, and that’s the whole point. There is something to be learned, from being familiar with the set-up nevertheless.

A company with a sexually explicit name: *insert own imagination here* sells sex toys and pornography. It contains a catalogue, which would turn that bloke from 50 Shades, well, Grey. It also has other items that your mom’s cousin probably leaves around the house. People order their goods and make an online payment. In the course of the purchase, customers are repeatedly assured that the more benign Acme Shopping, or some such, will appear on their transaction logs, or bank, or credit card statements. The customer fills their shopping cart, happy that their purchases will be discrete – certainly nothing there to ruffle the wife, husband, mother, or, flatmate, etc.

In reality, the catalogue or website is fake. There is no inventory, warehouse, or stockroom – only the bland accounts department, happily processing the payments. The customer waits with mounting excitement for their goods to, ahem, arrive, but they never do. In response to a complaint, or after an indecent interval, the company sends out a letter apologising for the failure to deliver, offering a full refund. While payment processing is seriously discrete, repayments are not. Should the customer bother to chase their refund, they will receive a cheque with the sexually explicit and embarrassing name printed boldly across it. The scammer is counting on the victim to be too ashamed to hand over the cheque to a cashier, be afraid that someone might find it, or that it might simply linger on their banking file. The cheques end up in the bin. While, in theory, the ‘vendor’ must have the money for the cheques they’ve written in the bank, it will at least be earning interest.

In essence, this is a kind of passive blackmail. It is in sharp contrast to the determined entrapment of teenagers that is happening online. Teens may be persuaded to pose in front of a web-cam, perhaps believing that there is real potential for a romance between themselves and the persuasive scammer. However, once the pictures have been taken, the scammer turns nasty and threatens to post the images all over the internet and send copies to the victim’s friends and family. The demands vary, but many teens have handed over payments of $250. This is a grave mistake. These scammers are working on around 40 victims a day… if they are just ignored, they will move on to their next target. Wayne May, founder of blackmailscams.com, helps people who find themselves in this situation. He explains that out of 1000 cases, only 4 people have had their pictures go online, and then exposure was limited. The moment a victim responds, especially if they hand over money, the scammers will hound them mercilessly – sometimes with tragic consequences.

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