My baby sister Joyce owns and operates a company here in Sarnia that makes dress-up products for kids. I have long admired her for doing this because it’s a pure entrepreneurial concept that started so simply: when she had kids and couldn’t find any decent toys for them, she made some for them. The neighbours all thought they were cool and asked her to make some for their kids and on and on it went until thirty years later she has a company that sells millions of dollars of these products all over the world and she is now recognized in the industry as a “player.”
Recently, I was in the car with Joyce driving to Goderich to help get her sailboat ready to sail back to Sarnia. On the way, her daughter Kate—who now lives in Switzerland and handles all Joyce’s European business, called her to announce that she had received—out of the blue—an order from a man in Dubai named Malik. The value of the order was $17,000 US and it was for product that Joyce’s company had in stock. But… since the client announced that it was a new company and had no credit record the order would have to be fully paid for in advance before it would be shipped.
Kate was calling to tell her mother that the client had readily agreed to this and asked for the company’s bank numbers to wire transfer the money. As a bonus he would actually have one of his trucks pick the product up in Germany. Kate told him that since he was brand new to the business she would need three trade references before she gave out the banking information.
After Joyce hung up, I said, “Well that sounds likes a sweet little deal; a $17,000 order at full pop and paid for in advance.”
Joyce smiled, “I know. But you know the old saying: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
“Or as mom used to say, ‘Sometimes, if something stinks, it’s because it smells too good.’”
Two days later I meet Joyce at a family gethering and I asked her how the Dubai deal was going. She said, “It was too good to be true.”
“What happened?” I asked.
It turned out that Kate had phoned her mother the next day to say that a cashier’s cheque had been received—drawn on the account of Aldossi International—an international freight-clearing house—but instead of being made out for $17,000 it had been made out for $71,000. When she had e-mailed Malik to tell him of the problem, he replied:
“Thank you for the payment confirmation, the mistake was from our account department. Kindly deposit the cheque into your bank account to receive the payment of the order.”
Kate had then e-mailed him back—in boldfaced type, “Under NO Circumstance can we accept a cheque that is made out incorrectly and (then) wire balances back to your company.”
Joyce took over from there
Her e-mail stated:
We have reported your actions in sending the cashier’s cheque for the incorrect amount—to the RCMP in Canada as we suspect that this is an attempt to fraud our company. They will be warning all of the Canadian banks and Aldossi International that this fraud attempt has been made.
Do not contact our company again.
“OK SEND MY CHEQUE BACK TO ME.”
He provided the following address for her to send it to:
“James Mushiri Kinuthia, Emirate Tower, Deira Dubi (Back of MacDonalds.) UAE.”
I said, “Wow… so his name isn’t even Malik. If you had gotten greedy and done the deal, what would have happened?”
“Well first of all, we would have gone ahead and deposited the cheque and then waited a week or ten days for it to clear.”
“Once that happens you’ve got $71,000 US dollars of Malik’s money in your account. Right?”
“Well,” she said, “We’d actually have $71,000 of Aldossi International’s money in our bank account. But you’re right, we’re covered… for the moment.”
“So once it clears, you go and release to Malik (James Mushiri Kinuthia) $17,000 US dollars worth of your product.”
“Right… along with a cheque for $54,000 US dollars to make up for the overage.”
“Sounds like a good deal so far.”
“That’s right… now we have $17,000 left from the original $71,000 in our account to cover the deal and that’s great… up until Aldossi International discovers that $71,000 of their money has been paid out unbeknownst to them.
They request a copy of the cheque from their bank only to discover that it’s an old valid cheque that’s been ‘washed’ and re-cycled—fraudulently.’”
“What does the girl mean by ‘wash’?” I asked.
“It’s a way of removing the original payee and sum amount information from the cheque and replacing it with ours… but the coding on the cheque is still there linking it to Aldossi’s account which allows it to clear to us for the stated amount. A while later, Aldossi realizes they’re short $71,000 and upon digging deeper they discover that a fraudulent cheque has been issued on their account. They let their bank know and their bank is required to put those funds back into Aldossi’s account. Their bank goes to our bank saying the cheque we gave them was issued fraudulently so our bank gives them back the $71,000 and takes it back out of our account.
We are now the victim of a cheque-washing scam.
“You’re down $71,000?”
“That plus the $54,000 we sent Malik for a total of $125,000 US plus maybe an other $17 grand for the product we let them pick up if they even bothered to do that.”
“Malik is up $54 large plus he maybe even has your product. He wins on every count.”
“And I have no legal recourse to get any of it back since if I tried, I would spend well over that amount on international lawyers fees and even if they get a judgement in our favour there is no way to enforce it.”
“And the loss gets even bigger while old Malik just fades into whatever backgrounds he or James Mushiri Kinuthia has fabricated for himself.”
“What a bunch of bastards eh?”
“With a capital B,” I replied.
Two days later I get a phone call from a 519 area code number—so it looks very local—but sounds like it’s coming from a phone room in the far east—the very far east. There is someone with a very non-Canadian accent on the other end telling me that he is calling from Microsoft to warn me about, “a very bad virus that is infecting your computer.”
“What computer?” I ask.
“Your Microsoft Office computer.”
“How do you know I have a Microsoft Office computer?”
“We have your name on our customer list.”
“Okay then… what’s my name?”
He hung up.
Later that day I get a call from the Canada Revenue Agency telling me that I owed them a whole bunch of money and that if I didn’t pay them today I should call a lawyer… a good one.
“Oh,” I said, “I am sorry to hear about that. Where should I send the cheque and for how much?’
He said, “Okay, send it our new office right behind the MacDonald’s in Dubai. Make it out to me—Malik—and I’ll handle everything for you…”
That last part didn’t really happen. I just put it in there to try and give you a funny ending but I urge you all to keep in mind that it is a jungle out there and their motto is—as W.C. Fields once said, “Never give a sucker an even break.”
The Maliks of this world won’t.
That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong but I wouldn’t bet on it.