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Local Music Internet Scam!
January 19, 2009 - Jim Price
It appears that local bands and musicians aren’t immune to being targeted by Internet scammers.
Within the past few days, a number of bands and musicians who are members of local music website Rockpage were targeted by an apparent Internet scam, which tried to use a false show booking scenario to separate musicians from their money.
The general plot of the scam: Somebody claiming to be from Newtown (near Philadelphia) sent emails looking to book bands for two shows, a wedding and a birthday party, supposedly taking place in the Scranton area. This person also indicated an interest in booking a comedian, which the band was also supposed to book. After obtaining one band’s contact information (mailing address and phone number), the scammer sent a money order from Spain to pay for the shows. The musician who forwarded the phone number was contacted the following day by an individual with a heavy foreign accent, who indicated that the money order had been mailed out. When the money order envelope arrived, it was postmarked from Spain but listed a Georgia home address (for a booking in Scranton). The envelope included three money orders; all for twice the amount of the quoted booking price; the scammer explained that the extra money was for another booking he wanted to set up. The recipient was instructed to deposit the money into his band’s account, and that more information would be forthcoming.
A few days later, the target was contacted by the comedian, who cancelled out of both shows. The scammer then called to report that all the bookings had been cancelled except for the wedding; and requested that all the payment be refunded except for the cost of the wedding show. The scammer requested that the money be sent via Western Union to another party located in Latvia.
The scam: The money orders were fake. If the target would have refunded the money order amounts using his own cash or credit card, he would have lost that money, regardless of the validity of the initial deposit. Fortunately, this target smelled a rat, held off refunding any money, and did some research on Western Union’s website to uncover the apparent laundering scam. After he reported his findings on Rockpage, a number of other Rockpage member musicians reported that they had been contacted by this same scammer, who apparently phished for email contacts from the website.
So a word of caution to area musicians: If a stranger contacts you by email to ask for a booking, inquire and do some research to check the validity of the person contacting you. And if you smell a rat, don’t send out any money, and get in touch with law enforcement.