TRUE STORY: One of our artists brought us a client who wanted design work done. They asked him to start and would pre-pay. So far, so good.

Even before we received the check, the client sent me multiple emails requesting a deposit receipt to confirm we’d received/ deposited the check. While doing so, he wrote to the artist — leaving me off the email — saying an emergency had come up, they needed half the money returned. By wire transfer. To yet a different name and address from anything so far.

* The check came from an LLC in Massachusetts. Yet that check was shipped from another company in California. Instead of the check identifying the project being commissioned, it stated only “Payment Approved.” First flag.

* Client seemed hesitant to give me his phone number, or his full name, and his generic email address gave no name from which we could perform client due diligence. Second flag.

* While he wrote to me asking for a deposit receipt, he wrote to our artist — NOT copying me — saying he needed half the money returned. He specifically left me out of that information loop while wanting a deposit confirmation. Third flag.

* It would have made FAR more sense for him simply to write me saying “Plans have changed, we can only pay for the 1st phase, so do not deposit that check; tear it up and we’re putting a check for the revised amount in the mail to you today” rather than a far more complicated process of receiving/depositing/clearing/issuing rush refund. Fourth flag.

* He was pushing for a rush refund by methods different from the way he paid us (wire, Zelle); those methods cost a fee to send to him and offered us no protection. Fifth flag.

* The name and address for the requested wire transfer did not match any information on the check OR on the envelope’s shipping address. Sixth flag.

* Even though our bank technically clears a check in a business day or two, we’ve had occasions from new clients where their check bounced and our account got docked for it 10 days later. We also had one instance where someone else did this exact same thing — sent us a check, asked for a refund and, after we did so, their original check bounced. Seventh flag. But we were able to stop payment on our check and not get stiffed.

Our bank rep advised us not to issue any type or refund for “Seven to 10 business days” to make certain the LLC check clears and nobody tries to “stop payment” on it, as the only way to ensure the money is there. Once our Bank gives the all clear, I told the client I’d mail a refund by check — the same method we were paid — to the name and address on the original check.

As a faster alternative, because I have not yet released any money to the artist, I suggested the sender call his bank to stop payment today on the LLC check. “You could then pay us the revised amount and we could start from scratch.”

Client wrote back that I’m a liar, that I was being selfish, that this delay could cost a child’s life. I reiterated that his bank could stop payment on it, problem solved, and even sent him a link to the LLC’s bank how to do it. In response, he continued to demand refund by wire transfer and even threatened to call the FBI. (!!!)

Of course it was a scam. Just by me holding off one day, I got to see the client’s check to us BOUNCE, proving it was indeed a scam all along. Nearly thirty-one years of running Glass House Graphics gives me a pretty good spider-sense about this….



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