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December 19, 2012

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

I consider myself a pretty savvy internet user. Online scams and phishing attempts have never sucked me in. But last week I almost fell for something that could have potentially cost me a fair bit of money. Luckily for me, my spidey senses went on full alert. Let me fill you in on what happened.

Hubs and I sell antiques online. Last week I received an email from a guy, let's call him "Joe". Joe was interested in one of my vintage oil cans and wrote to say he wanted to buy it. The usual course of action is that I reply to his email, he offers a lower price than I'm asking and we begin the bartering stage of antique buying and selling.

But Joe asked me to phone him rather than reply to his email as he was "too busy to answer emails". Hmmm...  spidey sense starting to tingle! Yes I'm the suspicious type. It seemed odd to me but I mentally shrugged and made the call. It went to voicemail where a man with a thick accent provided the name of a business and the usual pleasantries about returning calls.

I left a message and gave (somewhat reluctantly) my phone number for contact. It didn't take long for Joe to respond. He had the same thick accent as the voice mail so I figured he was the business owner. he was very nice, very pleasant, very talkative. In fact, he was overly nice, overly polite... kind of an Eddie Haskell kind of thing. My spidey senses were really strong now! But I kept chastising myself for being too suspicious.

Joe then sent my spidey senses even higher by remarking that he didn't care how much it cost for the oil can, he just wanted it. That was odd. Very odd. He didn't make a lower offer as expected. And he wanted it sent courier so it would reach him before Christmas.

I informed him I would package up the handle and investigate courier costs on Monday then I'd let him know. "Okay" was his answer, "and then you give me your bank account number so I can deposit the money into your account"

Whoa!! Full alert for my spidey senses! In this day and age of Paypal and interac e-transfers why would someone choose a more cumbersome method of transferring money?

So I told Joe I prefer Paypal or interac transfer and his immediate response was "Oh no I just go to my bank and put the money straight into your account" And then in the brilliance of con men, he added "Of course I count on you sending me the oil can and not cheating me" Wow. That's brilliant because of course I should immediately defend my honesty and assure him that I'm above board.

And I did. I fell for that part. Knowing he'd sucked me in he engaged me in small talk. He used my name frequently throughout "So Lorine tell me how you got interested in oil cans" and "Lorine, do you have any other oil cans for sale" Yep, you guessed it - I began thinking of how great it would be if I could sell more of my oil cans to him and started my sales pitch. Good psychological ploy  - use the mark's first name frequently, makes them think you're their buddy.

It ended up with him saying that for sure he wanted the two for which I had photos and he wanted me to dig out all the rest and take pictures to send him as he probably would buy them all. He'd pay whatever I wanted plus courier costs, all I had to do was give him my  bank account number so he could deposit that money.  Now in case you think I'm talking 20 bucks, let's just say that these particular oil cans don't come cheap. Together the two in question would be $175.00 plus shipping

My suspicions were definitely aroused but I started to question myself. Was I suspicious because he had an accent? Maybe I was being very unfair and horror of horrors, was I doing some ethnic profiling? I was pretty sure that wasn't the case, that's not my nature, but I only had a few odd things causing me to feel so uneasy.  I started feeling very guilty about being suspicious of him!

But the thought of giving my bank account number to a complete stranger filled me with unease. And so I sat down and went over the spidey sense alerts I'd gotten since first talking to Joe. Mentally shaking myself for letting this guy suck me into doubting myself,  I wrote to him the next day with a total cost for the two oilers plus shipping expenses. I added that I could send him an invoice and he could pay via Paypal, by interac e-transfer, by cheque or by money order.

Guess what? I never heard from Joe again.

I found out later from my bank that theoretically a person should not be able to withdraw funds from your account BUT if he were charming (he was), talkative (he was), polite (yep), and believable he could possibly fool a teller into believing he'd had his ID stolen (or whatever) and withdraw funds from my account. My bank does not recommend giving your name and bank number to anyone other than family (assuming you trust them!)

I had two reasons for talking about this today. One was to urge readers to never doubt your own gut instincts! If something is making your spidey senses tingle, step back and think about the situation. And you can apply this to genealogy research too. If you find a record and you have a sudden thought or suspicion (good or bad) about it, step back, take your time and think about it. 

And if you've read this far and you're curious about an old oil can costing so much money, take a peek. They can be quite beautiful! This Kaye oiler is my favourite.  But this Lucas oiler is the creme de la creme, considered the Rolls Royce of oilers even dinted as mine is. And hey, if anyone wants to buy them, cool -- just don't ask me for my bank account number okay?


Flabbergasted Mom said...

Wow! That's crazy!!

Back in the 90s my landlady had me pay my rent by putting it directly in her bank account by using her acct number because she lived in a different city - but I am very honest. Hurray for your spidey senses!

Kathleen Scarlett O'Hara Naylor said...

Oy, do I know where you're coming from! I've been trying to sell a wedding dress online for a year now, and haven't gotten interest from ANYONE except scammers and con artists. And I do the same thing - I try to look past the poor English in the e-mails, because why shouldn't someone whose second language is English buy a wedding dress online? I try to look past foreign addresses, because why shouldn't someone getting married overseas be able to buy a wedding dress online? And then they ignore me when I ask them to pay via PayPal and try to insist on some other method of payment, and I realize that my gut instincts have been right all along.

Andrea said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Good reminder to all of us. Anyone who acts even remotely like Eddie Haskell always sets my own spidey senses off.

Debi Austen said...

What a great reminder. We have a rental house and we've had a few scammers interested in renting our house. I'm not sure what they hope to gain but they always say they are out of the country, moving to the states, and therefore cannot meet us or see the house in person. I'm like Joe in that once I hear something like that, I don't communicate with them again. I'm so glad your spidey senses went off!

Antra said...

This particular case does sound suspicious, however, I do want to mention that there are a number of countries where paying by bank transfer is the accepted and common way to do things. Some businesses there refuse to do it any other way - it is either bank transfer or nothing.

This was quite a shock to me when I spent several months in Latvia (but didn't have a local bank account, and was thus closed out of buying items from some businesses). People gave out their bank numbers freely - many businesses and government offices have them posted on their websites. People post their personal account numbers on public groups on Facebook if they need people to send them money for things such as group purchases for tickets, etc. It will appear on your lease so you have a simple way to pay your landlord. I'm not sure if they have different safeguards in place to make sure only the account holder has access, but they must be doing something right because the system is still in place.

Just getting the information out there! I wouldn't have trusted this fellow though, by the sounds of it.

Celia Lewis said...

You have time to collect oil cans -??!! I'm shocked! :) I'm sure there's a story about how that got started, eh? In the meantime, one of my internal clues is how long someone I don't know from a hole in a wall is keeping me on the phone trying to talk me into doing something his/her way rather than mine (the normal or safe way)!! Good post, Lorine!

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Thanks everyone for your comments! Antra,this guy (Joe) lives about an hour and a half from me... he gave me his address so I could calculate shipping costs.

We use Paypal and interac e-transfer here in Canada so he had no reason to insist on having my bank account number

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Celia you would be shocked at what hubs and I collect then! We are avid antique hunters and collectors.

And no, we aren't hoarders. :-) Our collections are nicely displayed and we research all items to find out its history if possible.

Together we collect antique scales, Victorian shaving mugs and Victorian picture frames. I collect antique coffee grinders, snuff boxes, coffee tins, miscellaneous tins, Victorian jewellry boxes and Civil War era photo albums.

Hubs collects WW1 items, Mustache cups, coffin plates and anything to do with his home town.

Almost all our furniture is antiques, which is why our home isn't very grandchild-friendly! But we do have one large room in the basement where they can play freely. :-)

btw you can see some of our antiques on our blog Antique Hunter and on my Pinterest boards at

Yvonne Demoskoff said...

Oh, Lorine, I was so worried about what might have happened to you as I read your story. Glad to know there was a 'happy' ending for you :) I'm never comfortable when someone is trying to get me to do something I'd rather not do. I'm relieved to hear you didn't let him convince you to give your bank account number!

Antra said...

Oh I know, I live in Canada too. I'm just saying that you might encounter people who have immigrated from places like Latvia who don't know that it is taboo to ask those sorts of things here.

Mariann Regan said...

Oh, this is fascinating. I know what you mean ... some people know just which instincts of a "mark" to play with. I also would tend to feel guilty for mistrusting someone . . . but giving up any names or numbers, that's a red flag! It is amazing how many con men are out there, and how many thrive. When I think of all the people in the U.S. who trusted Bernie Madoff .....

Anonymous said...

We used to make our house payment directly to the seller's savings account. But honestly I would have reacted just like you, including being initially reeled in. When you provided so many options for payment and he didn't avail himself of any, it pretty much cinches it that he wasn't being honest.