A Smooth Criminal

Maybe it’s because I think those ‘dumb criminal’ news stories are hilarious, but I sometimes forget that all criminals aren’t that dumb. According to the FBI, small businesses lost $1.2 billion in scams in 2014! Since most of the small business owners I know are pretty sharp, it must take some smooth criminals to trick them.

So smooth, in fact, that they almost got me. That’s right, friends, Yours Truly almost got taken in by one of these tricksters. It wasn’t anything as obvious as a Nigerian prince wanting me to send him money – I like to think I’m a little more savvy than that.

brokerage scamThis scammer contacted me insisting that his own transportation brokerage business was going under. He wanted to take care of his clients by handing them off to a reputable logistics provider. His email correspondence pertained just enough industry lingo and details about my own company to sound convincing. At first, I shrugged it off, but his persistence made me curious. This guy talked a good game, and I didn’t question the veracity of his story until he asked for some cash to cover his expenses while he worked to get the ball rolling….

Up until that point, everything appeared to be on-the-level – he even had a complete LinkedIn profile listing community service as a Volunteer Coach for his son’s basketball team!

It never hurts to get a second opinion before money changes hands. After all, if something sounds too good to be true…it just might be. I called up a mentor and friend in the industry to get his thoughts on the situation, and boy, am I glad that I did. He checked around and learned that this guy has been running his scam in our industry since 2008! I felt a lot better about my almost falling for it when I found out I was far from the only one.

Would you be tempted by this offer?
It just goes to show you – no matter how long you spend in business, there’s someone out there who thinks they can pull the wool over your eyes! And it’s nothing new, either. I’m sure one of you is just itching to say, ‘Well Bob, if you believed that guy, I’ve got a bridge to sell you…’

Fun fact: in the early 1900s, scammer George C. Parker did just that, telling wealthy New York tourists they could pay him to own all or part of the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. Sure, it seems crazy to fall for that now, in the era of spam emails, but back then, there was no Google! It was just a matter of hoping you were smarter than the guy trying to scam you.

We can’t go around fearing that everyone is a liar and a con artist, but it sure does pay to do a little investigating and watch your back, especially in new or unusual situations. For example….

brokerage scam

Keep an eye on your wallet this weekend,