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The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” applies to numerous scams perpetrated on limousine operators. From emails bestowing large amounts of cash to the last known heir, to more dubious group travel arrangements, gullible and even savvy operators have fallen victim.
The Internet has become quite the tool for scammers trying to take advantage of limousine operators. It is such a big problem that the FBI has addressed the situation on its website with advice on dealing with scams. Many scams originate in Nigeria where it has been said that credit card fraud is almost a national sport, according to the FBI. The official law governing fraud in Nigeria is known as Section 419; a Google search of 419 will bring up a host of anti-scammer websites.
Almost all scams have a common goal of obtaining your bank account, your credit card number, your personal information, or all three. Once the information is obtained, your bank account easily can be drained or you might rack up debt on a new credit card you didn’t even know you had. You might exhaust the credit line of a credit card without knowing it until your next statement arrives or a purchase is declined by a vendor because your card has reached its limit without your knowledge.
There are many different types of scams. Email invitations offering jobs as secret shoppers, paid survey takers, or other work from home jobs such as medical billing arrive regularly for most people. In most cases, there is a fee for a “starter kit” that may show up and be of no value or not be received at all. In fact, a scammer may obtain your credit card number and use it to make other purchases unbeknownst to you until your statement arrives. There are also industry specific scams such as a request to provide group or family transportation over a period of several days. There are scams to charge operators a “broker fee” for setting up transportation in a ploy simply to obtain your credit card number, or a scammer may ask you for your bank routing information to deposit funds for an upcoming trip. The promise of a lot of money being deposited in your account today can seem attractive if you don’t realize it is a scam.
The newest scam, taking advantage of technology, uses TTY relay services. This service is staffed by telephone operators who take text messages from the TTY web-based service. Instead of using specialized TTY hardware, deaf people can use a chat interface with the phone operators. Unwitting TTY operators are placing calls to merchants and then directing them to ship goods or procure services paid for with stolen credit card numbers.
Jess Sandhu of A & A Limousine Service in Seattle received one of these calls. “The guy on the other end insisted that I give him my email address.” After complying, Sandhu received an email requesting service for Washington, D.C. Sandhu told the relay operator he was in Seattle. Shortly after the first call, Sandhu received another call from the relay service from the same person requesting service in Seattle for the same dates as the first call. “It is really annoying as the spammers are now using relay services to make it look like legit,” Sandu says.
Most common limo scams
Most limo scams use a very similar Request For Quote (RFQ) to start the scam process:
My name is Paul Bryant Of Able God Leisure and Tours, Our company Provides Travel & Leisure Services to Our Clients Worldwide. I would like to make a Bus Charter reservation or limousine for our clients (Four Families) who will be visiting your country from Malaysia for an Event. Your service would be needed on the day of there arrival from the airport to the Event Center and also to the hotel they’d be lodging. Please find below the service you will be providing.
NUMBER OF GUESTS : 9
ARRIVAL DATE : 17th SEPTEMBER 2011
CHARGE FOR AN HOUR
TOTAL CHARGES FOR 5 HOURS
Please kindly do get back to me as soon as possible with the total cost as required, so i can provide you with my credit card details for the total payment of the Service. I have viewed your website and its contents and would be happy if you don’t direct me back to your website. Furthermore,do let me know the credit cards accepted for payment.
Your Earliest Response Would Be Appreciated.
Keep In touch.
Thanks for the response with the quote. I am OK with the quote and I would have my clients put things in order for their flight on the 27th of June. I would have to seek a little favor from you and i would be happy if you can be able to grant me the favor i seek from you. Due to my present health condition, i would provide you my credit card details for you to charge for the total cost of the service + Tip and also i would like you to charge an extra sum of $XX which would be used by the travel agent in charge of My clients flight arrangements. I am sorry if i am asking for too much but i would have forwarded my credit card details to the Travel Agent but i was meant to know that they don’t have a credit card facility and the only mode of payment would be through western union or money gram and that’s why i am seeking your favor on this. i would be willing to compensate you if you can assist me on this.
Kindly let me know if you can assist me so i can forward you with my credit card details for payment and confirmation of booking. Your urgent response would be appreciated.
Analyzing potential scams
In the communications above, there are many clues to the scam in both the request and the response. The irregular capitalization and poor grammar imply the letter is not from a professional travel agent. It is not conceivable that a party of nine would want a bus OR a limousine. It is more likely they would specify one or the other. There is no mention of what the “event” is or what “event center” the party needs to be transported to.
In the response to the quote, there are further tips indicating this is a scam. The first is the request for a favor. It would be abnormal to request a “favor” from someone you have no relationship with. There is a mention of a “present health condition” that is simply playing on sympathy with no bearing on the transaction. The reference to the travel agent not having a “credit card facility” is absurd. No travel agent in the world would operate without the ability to accept credit cards. Western Union is mentioned as the “only mode of payment” if you don’t perform the “favor.” The fact is, Western Union is in the business of transferring money.
There are a few names that seem to pop up regularly in these scams belonging to individuals and companies. One of the most common names is “Paul Bryant.” Bryant is associated with “Humphsonick Leisure & Tours,” “Leisure and Tour” and “Able God Leisure and Tours.” “Henry Smith” is another name used with “Able God Leisure and Tours.” “Humphery Purcell of Next Day Leisures” is another name to watch for, and “Reverend Cole Mark” appears under the guise of being the senior reverend of “Catholic Youth Forum” who needs a vehicle for six hours each day for one week to transport students. There is also “Cole Smith of Next Day Leisures,” and yes, that’s how he spells it.
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