Green Bay small business owner targeted in overpayment scam, shares story to warn others
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The owner of a Green Bay cleaning company says a $3,900 check received in the mail was the tipping point.
“I received this check, this huge check and it looked legitimate to me,” said Jean Schumacher, owner of JS Janitorial. “I told him that straight out. I normally never accept a payment until after my services.”
Schumacher had been exchanging text messages and e-mails with a potential client.
“There’s a family of three moving into the area that would like cleaning done for them, cleaning service which is what I provide. And it gave an e-mail address,” said Schumacher. He agreed to pay me $600 a week, which that’s crazy. But then go ahead and take out the $600, but what I need you do do now, because things have changed, KI need you to send back $3,300 to my real estate agent.”
They exchanged e-mail with just enough information to string her along.
“Right in the beginning I thought wow, this is a really good deal. For a moment, I did think this could be legit,” said Schumacher.
But a gut instinct led her to the Better Business Bureau.
“Fortunately she was suspicious and she filed a scam tracker report with us,” said Susan Bach of the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.
Schumacher’s instinct was right, that lucrative cleaning job was a dirty scam.
“I get a call from him and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. And I said ‘Do you have the address for the place you’d like me to clean for you.’ He said ‘No I don’t have that.’ I said ‘You’re moving in 5 days and you don’t have the address?” said Schumacher.
At that point, Schumacher knew it was a scam, and was mad, and also wanted to do everything she could to find out where the person was coming rom.
Bach says it’s an overpayment scam, one of the most common scams that targets small businesses.
“We’ve seen restaurants, catering companies, janitorial services, I think that makes sense given the times we’re in now. A story would be believable that they want to pay more because of COVID,” said Bach.
COVID-19 has made it convenient for scammers to fly under the radar.
“So a customer who’s not willing to speak with you over the phone, and will only text with you or e-mail - that’s a red flag. If the e-mail or text message contains lots of grammatical errors, broken English - that’s also a red flag,” said Bach.
Schumacher wants to use her experience to make sure other businesses don’t fall for a dirty scam like this.
“I have so many friends and family that have their own businesses. Self-employed,” said Schumacher. “I thought, I can’t just let this go without saying something or trying to do something,”
The Wisconsin Business Bureau is offering these five tips to help avoid becoming a victim to the overpayment scam. CLICK HERE to learn more about the scam.
- If something sounds suspicious, confirm it by calling the company directly or checking the company website. Don’t click on links in an unexpected email – type the URL for the company into your browser or do a web search to find the right website. Also, check the existence of the company by searching online directories, Google, and withBBB.org.
- Look for red flags. This includes poor grammar, spelling and punctuation errors and sentences that do not make sense. Also, often and as in this case, the email will not include a company or organization’s full name and contact information.
- Don’t click, download, or open anything that comes from an anonymous sender. This is likely an attempt to gain access to your personal information or install malware on your computer.
- Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Always be wary of unsolicited messages via email or text. Scammers will often avoid having to talk or meet in person or via phone.
- Report your experience. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it is. Share the information to help warn others - take time to report scams and fraud to BBB Scam Tracker.
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