The original email was from Caroline Lewis (email@example.com), who had set up a basic Knot profile and was looking for wedding photography (and probably trying to pull other vendors in as well).
The first clue was in the original email sent out thru the Knot:
Please send me your Availability and prices of your packages to my email firstname.lastname@example.org
The capital A was a bit odd, but could have been a typo, and the request to send everything to an outside address, while strange, was not too much out of the norm. Since the names did not match, I figured it was a mom (Rachel) registering for her daughter (Caroline) or visa versa.
I responded to the email with my typical introduction email and moved on to the next task on my daily list.
Today I got the clincher:
Thank you so much for your email and i want you to know that i really appreciated it alot...I am sorry to tell you that you that i am presently work offshore at the moment and i am not allowed to talk over the phone here because of explosion so i will prefer everything being done via email to secure the date before i get back to the state,I am okay with your total price of Basic Wedding Day Coverage and i am ready to proceed so i will appreciate it if you can email me your full name and mailing address so that i can make out the check to you to secure the date before i get to the state.I will be looking forward to reading from you Rachel Lewis email@example.com
Wow – she can’t talk on the phone because of explosion! Heavy job. 🙂
Lets look at this line by line:
I am sorry to tell you that you that i am presently work offshore at the moment
Broken grammar and the word “presently”. Using the word presently in this way is a formal British usage and gives the first clue that this is someone, at least educated, overseas and not an American.
i am not allowed to talk over the phone here because of explosion so i will prefer everything being done via email
So can she not talk because there WAS an explosion, or because she might cause one?
Not wanting to talk on the phone, even when planning a wedding, is a major clue of what is coming. I’m fine with doing everything via email, but always want to talk with someone on the phone first or Skype with them. I can type away and send email after email for hours, or just make a 2 minute phone call and resolve everything quickly. On top of that, I want to build a relationship with my clients and get to know them before their wedding day. Thats not really possible when your only communicated via email.
to secure the date before i get back to the state,
“before I get back to the state” – A regular person would have said ‘states, not ‘state’ but perhaps its a typo (that was repeated again later).
I am okay with your total price of Basic Wedding Day Coverage and i am ready to proceed
The extra space after Basic Wedding Package means this was a copy and paste.
so i will appreciate it
Again, broken grammar.
if you can email me your full name and mailing address so that i can make out the check to you to secure the date
Up to this point, the only contact I had with Rachel/Caroline was giving her my basic package information.
Now she wants to mail me a check, no questions asked.
Any wedding vendor requires a contract and a deposit. She asked about neither, but is willing to pay the full price up front?
can email me your full name and mailing address so that i can make out the check to you to secure the date before i get to the state
Again, broken grammar. My name and address are in the footer of every email I send out. The appropriate response would have been “Is the mailing address below correct? Can I send a check there”.
Again “the state”. Not how we refer to the US typically, and most would have said “Ohio”, but I understand this is just a form letter and is being sent out to many vendors in many states.
I will be looking forward to reading from you
And this seals the deal: “reading from you”. Obviously someone who has only a basic understanding of how to use Google translate.
Once I got the response, I went back into my Knot account and looked at Caroline/Rachels profile again – it had changed.
Ummm this is going to be a four and a half hour drive from the ceremony to reception – I don’t think so.
She changed the location after emailing me to probably start scamming vendors in the Lansing area.
I played along and told her my mailing address was in the footer of the email. Nothing else. Her response:
I have sent your details to my secretary and she will mail out the check to you and the event first thiing in the morning and i will provide you with the tracking number so that you can know when the check arrives at your mailing box Rachel Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org
Okay then – Rachel has a secretary that can sign and mail checks for her, but can’t call me to set up basic wedding planning details? While its nice that she will be sending me a tracking number for the check, thats really for her, not me.
The way the scam works is simple, but devilish, for those naive enough to follow thru.
I will probably get an email in a day or two with the tracking number and text something along the lines of:
“My secretary / accountant made an error and sent the check for the wrong amount. Once you receive the check, can you immediately send $X,XXX.xx to the [some other vendor] at [this address] and keep the difference for yourself for your troubles.”
The tracking number lets her know when I am getting her check and she will lay pressure on me to send my check off as soon as possible, before I try and cash her check and find out its a fake. In this way, she gets my money, and I get nothing.
More about the confidence or Nigerian check scam can be found HERE.
For a whole list of the MANY possible scams – look HERE.
There was a similar scam running around a few months ago about model photography that I posted about on my Commercial Photography site HERE.
UPDATE (3 hours later):
Wow! That didn’t take long – And here it is:
I am happy to tell you that my assistant has mailed out your check but there is a little mix up from her. She was supposed to send out 2 checks today, one for you and another for the wedding planner. She mistakenly sent the whole payment to you. Please, I will really appreciate if you could deduct your money and help out send the remaining funds to the wedding planner. Your help will be greatly appreciated Rachel Lewis email@example.com
The check arrived today via USPS Priority Mail #9405501699320150451052 for $950 more than the wedding package price along with several emails from Rachel telling me the check arrived and to let her know when I have deposited it.
How are you doing today and how is your weekend going?I just got a confirmation from USPS that the check has been delivered to you.Please email me to know if you have received the check and deposited it.
The return mailing address for the envelope is:
304 Bellevue St.
Brooklyn, IA 52211
According to Zillow; “304 Bellevue Street in Brooklyn is a BIG home with beautiful spacious rooms, four bedrooms and two baths”, and doesn’t have a front desk 🙂
The USPS tracking info has the origination zip code as PARNELL, IA 52325 about 30 miles away.
The Cashier’s Check that was enclosed (with no other paperwork or explanation) was drawn on T Bank, 16000 Dallas Parkway, Suite 125, Dallas, TX 75248 and the remitter’s name was Ryan Levita. I will be calling them on Monday when they open 🙂
I contacted TBank in Dallas on Monday (2/26/18) – the person answering the phone didn’t need any information other than the remitters name: Ryan Levita and knew without consulting anything that it was a fraud. She told me that they have had a large number of attempted remittences by Mr. Levita and encouraged me to submit everything to the FBI, which I am in the process of doing via their IC3.gov website. I have also contacted the Columbus Police Department Fraud Unit.
Unsolicited, Rachel Lewis contacted me again this morning:
Thank you so much for your email and i want you to know i appreciated it a lot,have my check cleared yet and if no tell me when the bank will make it available to be cleared.Here is the information of my event planner and i will appreciate it if you can send it to him via Walmart to Walmart Transfer or you can send it via Money gram Name - Morris stroud State-Missouri City- st louis Zip code-63033 All you need to do is walk into any Walmart near you and tell the cashier you want to transfer the money via Walmart to Walmart and i will appreciate it if you can split the payment to him in $900 per transaction.Please i urge you to email me the transfer receipt once its completed.I will be looking forward to reading from you Thanks in Anticipation Rachel Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org
So, Umm, Yeah – this just keeps getting better and better – LOL.
I will be submitting the additional information to the FBI 🙂
I contacted the Knot on February 16, 2018 and informed them of the bogus lead and that this was definitely a scam. Their response:
Thank you for sending this over! I had another pro send this to me and it's already been reported. Thank you and always send these over so we can act quickly. Have a great day!
I spoke at length with Liz Plath at the Knot on February 26, 2018 about the scam and what had become of it. They have gotten a number of bogus account registered under various Rachelewis @AOL addresses and have tried to block them when they are flagged by vendors as being spam.
When in doubt report!
I have also been contacted by dozens of other vendors who have gotten the same (or very similar) emails from “Rachel”, and who have thanked me for the posting. Glad I could help! Stay safe out there 🙂