Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Weird phone call: possible scam

I placed an ad to find homes for Pumpkin and the two pups. Mama (as I call her - Cayla named the female cavy Mercedes Cow) will be giving birth within two weeks, and we've got to simplify the pet situation.

Over the weekend, the pups found new homes. Then yesterday I got a weird phone call.

The person who talked claimed to be a relay operator. He said he was helping a person who was communicating by computer - possibly a deaf person. The procedure is that the caller types the message, the relay operator says the message, the call recipient responds verbally and ends with "go ahead." The relay operator then types the response, the caller types again, and so on.

During the call, an operator supervisor broke in to tell me that the call fits the criteria of a scam. The call was dropped, but there was a second call. During the second call, I asked where the caller was from. Wisconsin. The caller said that shipping wouldn't be a problem and asked if I would e-mail the details.

I ended the call and e-mailed the caller. Here is the text of the e-mail:
"You called because I have a guinea pig for sale. You said you live in Wisconsin. What town in Wisconsin? This guinea pig is around Fort Dodge, Iowa, which is too far from Wisconsin. I'm sure there are guinea pigs much closer to where you live."

I have not received an e-mail in return.

What I think is going on is that someone found my ad online. It's possible that this is a scam. There are scams where people are given a check for way over the amount of the item and asked to give back the difference.

From the Iowa Attorney General's Web site:
"(Iowa Attorney General Tom) Miller listed the hallmarks of the new scheme:

■ The victim is selling a used car or some other item via the Internet. A buyer based in Africa sends an e-mail message that he wants to buy the item.
■ The buyer says he will pay with a cashier's check from a bank in the U.S.
■ At the last minute the buyer has some story why the cashier's check will be much more than the asking price - thousands of dollars more. "Just wire the difference back to me," he explains, "-- after the cashier's check clears, of course."
■ The victim thinks the cashier's check must be good when it's accepted by his or her bank and the funds are provided - but in a week or so the check turns out to be counterfeit.
■ Unfortunately, the victim has wired thousands of dollars to Africa, never to be seen again."

I'm guessing that since the caller didn't respond to my e-mail, I showed enough skepticism that they figured it wouldn't be worth the effort to continue. I'm sure there are easier marks out there.

In the meantime, we've got one cavy for sale and more to be born soon. Since the pups were born Nov. 10, I'm guessing Jan. 10 for a possible birth date. (Wikipedia article on cavies: The gestation period lasts from 59–72 days, with an average of 63–68 days.) So, it could be any day now. I just picked my birthday as the due date for the heck of it.

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