Fraud, Fake Clients, and Interior Designers

Heather Bates Sunday, June 12, 2016 6 Interior DesignLife experience #designhounds #idcdesigners Permalink 0

FRAUD. You hear about it all the time: Debit and Credit cards, bank accounts, property sales, you name it. Never before has it hit the interior desgin biz.

This year so far, I’ve had two different bank debit cards hacked and my Facebook personal page hacked – which is getting more common. You know that one, as usually you are already friends with a person, and you go to check the page and the header is black – like deep outer space. Big clue that this is not your friends page, right? DUH!

Well, let me tell you how easy it is to initally fool an Interior Designer.

For me, I’ve been contacted THREE times for potential projects. Two “clients” from England, one from a “client” working in oil work (an oil rig most likely) somewhere between the UK and Norway (oh! you mean this North Sea?)

Should these countries have hit my radar sense? Not necessarily. I’ve had a few military clients moving back to the US, who’ve purchased a house, and I get 3-4 glorious months with no one living there to work my magic! My contractors like that too.

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Fraud #1 From England:

A lady contacted me, saying her hubby had a new job in my area so they were moving back with their 7 month old to a condo they’d purchased. She wanted to pay me $2200, to meet delivery men and tip them and unpack all their furniture, art and such and get it all set up before they arrived in a few weeks. I thought, Why not help them? She sent me a check. Now it get’s interesting.

The check came in a 2 day usps mailer from Miami. Yes Miami – not England. Only a check was in there, nothing with the condo address. The check itself? $3600.00 drawn on a bank in Ohio for a Brewery, LLC! I called up the bank, gave them the account# and they told me funds to cover the check were NOT there.

This is the standard fraud where criminal believes you are ignorant enough to deposit the check, which then bounces, and the criminal contacts you and tells you they sent too much money and want the difference paid back. Luckily I didn’t deposit the check. The police told me since I didn’t do anything with the check, they couldn’t prosecute, in case it was a real person who would be harmed by false accusations.

Turns out this lady’s name is well know in our line of business. We have a very active FB Group ?

Fraud #2 From England:

A man contacted me and  told me there was NO kitchen in the house he was buying and wanted me to design and procure every thing for the project. He would be traveling most of the summer to Hong Kong, so his assistant would arrive shortly to oversee the project here. He wanted to know what the cost would be so he could send me a retainer to get strated on the project.

Oh yeah, I was told he and his wife were deaf. No radar sense going on at this point. Being a designer, I had umpteen questions for him about what they needed, including the need for this lighting system where lights flash on and off when something is wrong. He never ansewered my questions, nor gave me a street address, which was supposedly in my area.

Then he sent me this photo for how he wanted his kitchen to look:

The New-Build Farmhouse Kitchen, by 1909 Kitchens in the UK

The New-Build Farmhouse Kitchen, by 1909 Kitchens in the UK

OHHHKAAAAAY! Now? My radar sense was on HIGH ALERT STATUS. In my little corner of the world, there is NO kitchen that looks right out of an English movie.

How did I figure this out?

Simple, really. Pinterest, Baby! I uploaded the photo and searched the image on Google. BOOM, There it is. Told the “client” This is a fraud and I’m on to you. He never contacted me again.

I found out later, that he had approaced other desginers with the same deal, but for a master bedroom. Oh, forgot to mention he told me he got my name from the NKBA  Turns out they knew about this particular scam when I called them.

Ready to move onto Fraud #3: Somewhere between UK and Norway, the Oil Rig Guy

The North Sea

The North Sea

Let me stress again, even though I’d easily sniffed out the fraud with the first two scams, this was much more diffcult. Took me 16 days and about a month of texting, after moving from emails to texting. That was vexxing, because…

How do you get sms text messages off your cell phone for documentation? Mobikin is your friend here. I have a Samsung Note 4, which you’d know if you read my post about Samsung Products and my love for them. I didn’t want to lose my phone to the investigation!

I have finished all my sluething and have all the documentation I need for the IC3 complaint I filed with the FBI. If you are the victim of online fraud go here to file your complaint. I cannot divulge the details, since this is an active investigation.

How Do I vet my clients?

By using the oh-so-pervasive Big Brother is watching YOU, social media. You know to Google yourself to see what information is out there, and this is where I always start. Then I use Facebook, and LinkedIn –  maybe even Twitter

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Clients usually call me first. If you contact me vie email from my website or LinkedIn, or message me on my Facebook Business Page, I will ask you to call me. Once you do, I will ask for the address and a date to meet you at your house.

If you are not on Social Media for some reason, that is fine, but you need to provide me with other identification from now on. I’ll still need your address, and phone call.

If you are overseas, I will requrie the extra step of a Skype callFacetime, or Google Chat. You will need to GO TO YOUR BANK to place an International Wire to my bank.

Best part of all these fraud cases? The deputy who came to my house called me a very prepared citizen. He told me most people are not like that. I told him, this was due to not only my accounting background, which requires eyes on everything, but my devouring of Robert Ludlum’s Spy novels as a 13 – 15 yr old.

Hit up your local library or download them. Some of his older books were made into movies – as well his Jason Bourne Series.

I am a very kind person. I give people the benefit of doubt. Now that I have been through all of this in the first 5 months of 2016, NOTHING will get past my radar sense anymore.

Your asking me, “And this benefits me how?

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I am your advocate. All of my team is vetted. I have liablitly & Errors and Ommissions insurance policies.

We’ve got you covered so you can trust not only the desgin process to be the outcome you desire, you CAN trust my business and the trades I use.

Contact us here We’re excited to get your next project started!

Heather Bates