Joe’s tribute band was booked by a man named Rodrigues Collin for a gig in San Francisco, but it turned out to be an advance fee fraud. Joe says he discovered that Collin made contact with dozens of tribute bands at the same time, so he’s contacting them himself to warn them. Here’s how it happened to him.
Rodrigues Collin contacted me about hiring my band, Hollywood U2, for a party in San Francisco at the Flood Mansion (a Sacred Heart school that rents out it’s ballroom for parties) on Jan 31st. I book primarily over the internet. He called me on my cell, many times, and we negotiated a rate of $6500 for two performances and I sent him a contract and asked for a standard deposit of 20% plus enough to book plane tickets and hotels for the band.
He sent a cashier’s check to me for $4500. This is typically how booking a tribute band works – either bank wire or cashier’s check. I deposited the check in my business account at WAMU on Vine street here in Los Angeles.
The check cleared. The guy called a day or two later and said he had bills to cover on his end and demanded to book the flights, hotel, equipment, etc. from Spain. He demanded I send the money back to him right away via Western Union, an office in Madrid. I did so but only sent him $3200, telling him I had to keep the other $1300 as this was the 20% deposit for the band. Western Union accepted the money but Rodrigues called me several times to tell me he couldn’t get the money and that I had go back to Western Union to get the money back and go somewhere else.
I called Western Union and they said they had to verify why I was sending such a large amount and put me through to the fraud division. I did not understand why I was being questioned and was frankly extremely agitated by the whole transaction thus far, so I told Western Union why I was sending $3200 to this guy and what my band did and they were extremely difficult and I had to talk to a supervisor. All the while this Rodrigues fellow was emailing and calling non-stop.
Western Union released the money to him finally and he still continued to e-mail and call telling me his wife was now diagnosed with cancer and he needed the remaining $1300 to pay a doctor in Nigeria. At this point I started to become very suspicious and after a few more semi-threatening e-mails from him I stopped all further communication.
It is now January 16th. Yesterday, the 15th, I noticed that there was -$4100 in my bank account. Obviously the $4500 check was somehow “uncleared” after a week, and an additional 400 dollars have now been eaten up out of my account.
I am curious as to how the check would have cleared in the first place and why now, one week later, it is being reversed. However, I am obviously a vicitim of a fraudulent cashier’s check scheme. I have all documentation, western union receipts, his cell phone number and email, as well as the list of other tribute bands he originally e-mailed, as on the original e-mail he cc’d many many bands…this was clearly a mistake on his part. I have sent an e-mail to all of them warning them. One styx tribute band in sacramento responded to my email and was in the process of doing the exact same transaction and actually just yesterday was sending Rodrigues $3000 via western union. The styx tribute band was able to stop the transaction in time, thanks to my call and luckily for him.
I am quite upset however that my bank was able to clear this fraudulent check in the first place, and now hold me responsible. I feel that as a business owner there must be some sort of protection in place for me.
[contact info of the man who scammed Joe:]
By law, the depositor is the one responsible for any deposits he makes, so unfortunately you’re stuck with the bill. The law doesn’t really protect you from this type of scam, because there’s no requirement that banks take responsibility for authorizing and clearing a fake check. Your best strategy—and sadly, in this instance it’s all preventative because it won’t get you your money back—is to change your policies for accepting payment, and especially for giving refunds. FakeChecks.org goes as far as suggesting you only accepts checks from family members and friends. Restricting deposit payments to credit cards might cause you some booking problems, but it will protect you from scammers like Collin in the future.
At the very least, any time a potential customer asks for immediate cash back on a deposit, consider it a red flag that something might be wrong with the scenario. You can then talk to your bank and tell them you suspect fraud and ask them to investigate. There is really no acceptable scenario where someone should give you a check and them immediately ask for the money back.
Remember that as this article states, there is a difference between when funds are available and when a check is considered good. You can also check out this BankersOnline Alerts & Counterfeits table for banking institutions that are experiencing fraudulent activity of some sort.
Joe, you might also want to file a complaint with the National Consumers League’s National Fraud Information Center at fraud.org.