How Susan from Houston tried her scam this week |

How Susan from Houston tried her scam this week

Barry Smith

Susan tried to scam me this week.She called and expressed interest in an oak entertainment unit I have advertised for sale in the Appeal’s classifieds. She talked to my wife, Jenny, and asked if she could get a photo of the unit sent to her by e-mail.

Jenny suggested she just drop by the house and take a look for herself. That’s when Susan said she was in Houston and couldn’t come to see the unit. She’d need a photo.

Susan and Jenny weren’t actually talking. Susan had called via a “relay” used by hard-of-hearing people, so the conversation was being passed along by an operator.

Jenny thought that was odd. She also was skeptical that anyone in Houston would want to ship a huge oak entertainment unit – it holds the TV and stereo and such – all the way from Carson City.

But Susan was insistent that she was really interested. In fact, when Jenny put her off by saying she would have to wait until I got home and took a picture of the unit, Susan called back 45 minutes later. Then she called again a few minutes after that.

I came home from the Appeal and took a photo of the piece of furniture, then e-mailed it to the Yahoo address Susan had supplied.

I got this reply:

“Thanks for your quick response, i want you to send to me the total cost without the shipping cost and your full name and address in which the payment will be made to.

“i just want to inform you that i’m still interested moreso you will be receving a over draft payment which include the shipping fee and you will deduct your money once the cheque is cleared and send the rest balance to them via western union money transfer for them to come for the pick up immediately, i want you to contact them through this e-mail address and provide them with the address which the pick up will be made, when the payment is received by you.

“i have already made arrangement with them. i want us to start and finish the transaction sucessfull. Hope to read from you soonest.”

That’s when I realized it was the ol’ classified-ad scam.

The “money transfer” Susan would be sending us would be bogus. She’s expecting me to send her the difference – the amount it would cost to ship a 6-by-6 piece of furniture to Texas. If I did it before trying to cash the counterfeit “cheque,” I would be out hundreds of dollars.

It’s even possible I would have gotten in trouble for trying to cash a counterfeit check.

I feel silly for even sending the photo to Susan in Texas, whoever and wherever he or she may actually be. I didn’t fall for the scam, but I was reeled in long enough to do something I shouldn’t have done – reply by e-mail. And it was a scam I already knew about.

Every day, we innocently let people into our homes three ways – by the U.S. mail, by the telephone and by e-mail. Sooner or later, somebody is going to use one of those means to try to trick us.

Most of us like to believe we’re too sharp for the sharpies, but it’s tougher than ever to see through their ploys. The U.S. Postal Service does a good job of tracking down scam artists, yet the line is getting mighty fine with some of the practices by legitimate businesses.

How many times have you seen the big red “CHECK HERE” on a bill for a magazine subscription or a credit-card payment, then read the fine print to discover that by checking the box you’re signing up for some additional service at $4.95 a month? In my opinion, they’re trying to trick you.

On the telephone, you call to resolve some issue with, say, your television service or your cellular phone company. Before you get anywhere, though, you have to go through the sales pitch for their “latest offers.”

The worst was AOL, when I called to cancel my Internet account. The fellow on the phone was polite and friendly, and he assured me that my account was closed as of the phone call. But they were still billing me two months later.

When I got an “overdue” notice in the mail from AOL, I wrote to the president of the company and asked if he knew the damage his employees were doing to its reputation. I never got a response.

Now I don’t trust AOL any more than I trust Susan in Houston.

Internet scams fly into our e-mail so thick I can’t even count them. By now I hope you know you should delete them. You can do as I did, with the classified-ad scammer, and notify Yahoo of Susan’s e-mail address.

Whether you get the offer in the mail, on the phone or via Internet, there’s one piece of advice that has stood up since the days of flim-flam and grift. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Even knowing that, there’s still an element of human nature – it’s greed, really – that temporarily suspends our common sense.

Gee, a woman in Houston wants to buy my piece of furniture? I could sure use the money.

No, of course she didn’t. But Susan, you had me going there for a minute.

Update: Mary Santomauro, one of those people who sent back her second $75 rebate check from the state, called Thursday to say she had received a notice that the state was re-issuing the check.

Oh, well. Nice try, Mary.

After considering the cost of a 39-cent stamp to send it back again and the option of just not cashing it (and screwing up the state’s checkbook), she’s decided to give in, take the money and donate a portion to charity.

n Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at or 881-1221.