Looks like the Africans have found a new way to scam people and waste your time. No longer are emails their only means of trying to get you involved in a shady deal...now they are using the deaf phone relay system. And my mom and my company were their latest target.
Monday afternoon, our phone rang and it was the hearing impaired relay service. For those of you who don't know what this is, it is a way for deaf people to contact others via the phone. They type their conversation into some device they have and then a relay operator acts as an intermediary between this typed message and the person they are trying to call. We used to have a deaf client, so I am used to this type of procedure, as was my mother when the phone rang.
We actually haven't heard from our deaf client this year, so my mother assumed it was her at first, until the new caller identified themself as John Mark. My mom is easily rattled by these types of conversations as I usually handled all these calls in the past, but given my wired mouth state, she had to take it. She ended the conversation confused and under the impression that the man wanted us to install a new heater at his house and wanted to know the price. He provided us with an email address and I typed up a very rough estimate for a heater installation, given that he didn't provide her (I told you she gets rattled) with any specifics to the installation. I indicated that we would need to examine his pool equipment prior to presenting a final proposal, but got him in the ballpark.
So, yesterday this same "deaf" guy calls back and indicates that he doesn't want to have it installed but rather wants it shipped out of the country. I've never shipped anything out of the country before, let alone a 220 lb. pool heater, so my gut tell me to send this guy somewhere else. I instruct my mom to tell him to try and find the heater online from a company that does that sort of thing, because I don't want to be bothered with it.
She again gets rattled (man, I wish I could talk again) by the man's persistent requests and asks me what it would cost for the heater, and says that he said he'll handle all the shipping. I say it's about $2000, to which he says he'd like to order one. Well, what the hell!? If he's gonna handle the shipping, he can buy my heater. I definitely need a credit card though. So, she gets a credit card number...which actually worked...and he sends me an email with the shipping company's email address, as well as the address for where it is being sent.
Up to this point, I have no idea where this is going, but when the email arrives and says they want it shipped to Ghana, I know something is up. Nobody ships stuff to Ghana. And why would they choose our company as opposed to an online company that would definitely be less expensive. You see, we can't compete on price with the online guys, our draw is that we stand behind our products and are local...which doesn't really seem to work when you're dealing with Ghana. Anywho, I send their "shipping company" the info on the heater and they write me back to say that the shipping costs will be about $2000.
This seemed about right, but who am I to know...I don't ship crap to Africa. At this point, I'm getting very wary of the whole deal, and when I read that the shipping company only accepts Moneygrams and Western Union payments, I decide this is not something I want to pursue any further. Plus, I don't know what exporting laws and shit are and whether I need a license to ship products overseas. This is becoming a headache I don't need so I send John Mark a note that he's just gonna have to find someone else, because I don't know the specifics of shipping and don't want to waste any more of his and my time if this might not even be possible.
But he doesn't want to take 'no' for an answer. He calls and emails back, begging that we do this and pleading that he will pay for all shipping costs. His credit card worked...but this just seems too fishy. I give him the send off and once that is finished, I figure I'll do a google search and see if this is something anyone has seen before.
Sure enough, there's a couple articles basically outlining the exact same thing that happened here and indicating that in most cases the credit cards that are used are stolen and eventually get revoked.
Well, I guess my gut was right. Too bad this is gonna give deaf people a bad name when they really do want to buy a pool heater. I guess the biggest tip off should have been the fact that they wanted us to send a pool heater to Ghana.
I mean, why the fuck would you want to heat a pool in Africa anyway?