Online scams are regrettably endemic. If you’re reading this post, it means that as an active internet user, you’ve probably been targeted yourself. This is a cautionary tale of a recent scam attempt that darkened our doorway. Though we didn’t fall for it, it possessed a higher degree of sophistication than we’ve encountered before, so we thought it appropriate to pass on the tale and analysis.

It started with an email titled Animation Inquiry as noted. The text is pasted here- ”

“Greetings, I bet you are doing great? I need your service as an animator to work on the content for our wedding anniversary party. We would love to have an animation of two hands holding each other, with our names and happy married life messages popping on the screen every few seconds. Please let me know if you are free to take on a project such as this, so I can keep you updated with the necessary information.”

The slightly askew syntax did arouse a certain degree of suspicion, but we decided to proceed and give the inquirer the benefit of the doubt. We did google the name provided which returned a positive profile of a real person. Then came the hook on discussion of details needed in a subsequent email. Again pasted below- sounds like a man who knows what he wants.

“We are just trying to be creative with our Anniversary plan and make the venue a more fun place to be. That being said, we would love to make a 2D or 3D animation of two hands coming together, and a love emoji should appear once the hands meet each other in the center. * We also would love to have our names displayed on the screen, Happy Anniversary “Ana & Gabriel”. * As for the background theme, we would love to play around floral design and as for the color palette “cream” it is. The Indian theme like it was in the sample would be great too. * Seconds later there should be an animation of kisses emojis and a message “Thanks to you all for coming to celebrate with us TODAY. * The duration should be about 10-15 seconds, and in Loop style so it can keep playing. * The file type should be in ‘1920×1080 or H.264 mov’ format. This will be displayed on the projector screen at the venue, as we’ve already made an arrangement with the DJ that will handle the display part at the venue.”

What a nice sounding couple, and so in tune with what they want! Except for the fact that this is all a lie. Now its time for them to play the con. First- sign a contract to look even more legitimate. Then ask if an electronic check will work- we’ve gotten these before, there’s no fundamental problem inherent, if the check is real, and the funds clear, then you’re good to go.  Then comes the attempt (again pasted verbatim):

“I will work on the payment check tomorrow morning and have it sent to your email address. By the way, I was wondering if you will be kind enough to help me handle the payment to the DJ that will work on the video display and sound effects at the ceremony. She insisted that the only means of payment available is Venmo or PayPal, and I unfortunately don’t have any of them available. I hope you don’t mind if I add the Dj’s fee to your payment, so you can help advance it to them via Venmo or PayPal on my behalf. I’m open to giving you additional $50 to cover any future possible tax, and to appreciate your assistance. So once you receive the payment, deduct your deposit of ($800) for the project, and forward the remaining to the DJ guys on my behalf. I hope that is understood?”

Of course that’s quite opposite to an everyday reasonable business request, and then it became obvious that scam it was. Send a fake check for say 2000 and get 1200 of legitimate cash sent to the ‘DJ’. They pocket the 1200 and then the check you received from them bounces sky-high. We ended things by saying no we’re not doing that, and as suspected we never heard from them again.

Curiously enough when relating this tale to a good friend, a professional photographer, she revealed having a small variation of the same scam attempted on her. Who knows, they might have been the same organization. These folks are unlikely to be lone wolves, they are factory line workers with good scripts operating out of who knows where on Earth. They likely have supervisors who perform quality control on their email replies.  As for their success to failure ratio, that’s anybody’s guess.

In conclusion never give bank account details to anyone who you’re not 100% sure of, never pay anyone else’s bills, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.