Anatomy of a Scam Investigation: Chapter One | Popehat
I mentioned yesterday that my firm received what I believe to be a fraudulent pseudo-invoice for services not rendered. It appeared to be a variation on the classic toner scam, discussed here.
For some reason, this one seriously pisses me off. Maybe its because the fraud is so blatant. Maybe it’s because the weasel-worded disclaimer designed to give them a defense to fraud claims is so perfunctory and lame. Maybe it’s because after I sent an email to the scammer’s lawyer, the scammer himself called me and tried to run a con on me. Like I’m a fucking rube.
So. I’ve decided to dedicate some time and money to investigating this scam and the people and companies responsible for it. I’ve also decided to write about the investigation, and use it as an opportunity to discuss con man culture and how anyone with an internet connection, a few bucks, and some time can investigate an attempted scam — or, preferably, conduct due diligence on a suspected scammer before they can even try to con you.
I’m going to discuss using Google, using PACER (which allows access to federal court records), using state court records, and taking effective action against scammers.
Every story has starting point. This story starts with my firm’s office manager sending an email asking if anyone knew of work performed by UST Development, Inc. of Ontario, California. She indicated we had no record of services rendered by them, and our outside IT firm had not heard of them. I asked her to send me the invoice. She complied, sending me a pdf.