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“So once you are in receipt of my credit card details, you are required to charge the total amount of $5100 plus processing fees on my card, then deduct $1500 as initial deposit for the meals and drinks and $100 as a tip for your own kindness and send the balance of $3500 to the agent in order to prepay their expenses for coming. The agent’s information will be forwarded to you once this is confirmed. You can assist me in making payment to them through a certified bank check.”

The response? “Dear Sirs, Please do not write me again. I am not interested. Su-Mei Yu.”

Yu wonders how her restaurant was picked by scammers. Do they count on Asians being unable to detect the deceit? A check on the web suggests otherwise, as this type of scam has turned up at a variety of restaurants and in multiple cities. On August 2 last year, the local newspaper in Billings, Montana, reported that a restaurant called Bruno’s A Taste of Italy had in the previous several months fielded over 40 calls from scammers using the deaf-caller tactic and others that Yu’s Saffron restaurant has experienced. The Billings owner said that in one case he came close to losing $500 worth of lasagna. When he contacted the FBI, they said they could do nothing.

The biggest problem for Saffron has been the uncertain feelings that now plague Yu and her staff about large called-in orders. She says she got so leery of the scams that not long ago she almost lost a legitimate large order. “I went home and told my husband how upset I started to get about a woman’s phone order because I was sure it was a scam. He said, ‘Su-Mei, you have to check further into these orders or you’ll lose some business.’ ” And sure enough, when she got back to the woman and they planned a wedding, everything worked out well.

In recent emails dealing with large orders, Yu has come straight to the point about her worries. She tells me that someone going by the name of Philip David has approached her with numerous emails. In response to one concerning a wedding on February 11, Yu wrote, “I need more information before I can help you. I must say that your order is exactly the same as several others I received this past month, all of which were a scam! Therefore I am very cautious before I proceed. If this is in fact a true order, then I apologize and would be very happy to help you.” Yu closed her message with a warning. “Just for your information, I have passed all previous names, email addresses, and fax numbers to the police for investigation.”

The name Philip David turns up on the internet in connection with various scams nationwide. Yu says she’s had several phone conversations with a man going by that name. Finally, she told him, “I know this is a scam. Please stop doing this. Shame on you.”

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Comments

SurfPuppy619 April 1, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.

Wow-these scams sound very sophisticated....

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Visduh April 2, 2010 @ 8:17 a.m.

Sophisticated? Actually they are pretty crude efforts when you think about them unemotionally. But, with a huge order at stake, it is easy to see how a business would be lulled into thinking that it makes sense.

I wonder why it is that the FBI cannot take some action. These scams look tailor-made for a sting. The bad guys set it up with a business, and the FBI is waiting when the miscreants show up for the cash. By my figuring, there was no way these could be pulled off without a real, live person showing up to pick up the order and the "payment." That could be some innocent gofer, but the cops could quickly identify the person(s) behind it all.

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David Dodd April 2, 2010 @ 8:43 a.m.

Oh man, I have stories like this from the last place I worked. I'm with you, Visduh, I saw right through them, but the company got burned anyway. I mostly kept my mouth shut, I was the Production Manager, it was out of my realm of responsibility. But holy cow, what some businesses are winning to do on the chance they'll make some cash...

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Evelyn April 2, 2010 @ 11:12 a.m.

What if these restaurants started a policy that any large order has to be places in person, or at least discussed once in person? It'll cut down on the issues, I think, especially when billing and costs gets brought up.

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Visduh April 2, 2010 @ 11:33 a.m.

There's some real humor in this story. The owner commented that nobody would want to eat Thai food twice a day every day for five days. How true! That is, unless it were Thai people, and then they might prefer some variety while visiting the US.

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