General Warning Regarding Frauds & Scams
This is a general warning to anyone who posts a listing on the internet, that occasionally you may be targeted by someone wishing to perpetrate a fraud or scam.
The main thing to look for is someone asking you to send them money. You should never, ever send someone else money when he/she is the one supposedly buying something from you. I would also strongly recommend not accepting international money orders for expensive items like harps. Personal cheques are less likely to be counterfeit, however they can bounce. So the best thing you can do is wait for the cheque or money order to fully clear before shipping the item.
You should also be very wary of anyone asking for sensitive, personal information not related to the harp itself. Never, for instance, give away your SIN or credit card number or any similar important information. Another typical warning sign, is that the e-mail will often contain numerous mis-spellings, typos or small letters where one would expect capitals (and vice-versa). Also you should be extremely wary of anyone who is vague about their real identity, phone number, or other important contact information, or someone trying to set something up from an undisclosed overseas location, whether it be for purchasing a harp, lessons, or other services.
Also, I must repeat, never send anyone money, especially if they're claiming it's a "reimbursement" for a cheque that's "on its way" for an amount greater than the amount you were expecting or agreed on for the harp/lessons/services/etc.
The following is an example of a typical fraudulent e-mail. (See below for some anti-hoax sites)
Good day -----, and thanks for the mail. Sorry for the short delay in replying to your message. am o.k with the price of the [harp name] harp.
There have also been occurences of people trying to scam music teachers. The scammers can get quite detailed in their correspondence (often coming across as much more well-spoken than the example above), while remaining vague about certain key things, which is partly how they manage to string along otherwise savvy and intelligent people. The following is a story that is partly that of a cello teacher (from a post, "Public Service Announcement: Be Wary of Internet Scams" posted on http://www.clickforlessons.com/), and partly about a simliar incident that happened to me (thankfully I became wise to what was going on fairly early in the game, before any actual cheques arrived.)
Dont worry about the shipping,i have my shipping agent that will carry out the shipping and other neccessary arrangements.
I am sending you the check of $6500 ,so you have to get your own $3500 for the harp, and send the remaining excess funds on the check to the shipping company, through western union money transfer for the pickup of the harp, from your place Here is the information that i need from you ,where the payment will be made out to.
Your Full name that will be written on the check
Get back to me as soon as possible with these information today. I will await this information from you.
Thanks and Godbless..
and here is my number +[number] you can give me call anytime
also here is the shipping company email who is going to come for the pick up you can email them any time.
"My name apparently was on a website for music students and I received a message from a young man (he says) [ed. note: in my case a woman who passed herself off as a well-to-do aunt] who was interested in music lessons. He said that he was originally from Texas [in my case, somewhere in the UK] and inquired about fees for lessons [in my case, for her niece who was going to be visiting Ontario]. After advising him about the fees, he agreed to them and then said he wanted to pay for them in advance. I objected, saying that it was dangerous for him to send money to strangers over the internet and also that there was no need to do so; he could pay for each lesson individually. In our correspondence I repeatedly asked for a phone number or an address, and where he would be coming from for lessons. All these questions were evaded. That should have tipped me off, but unfortunately I still have some faith in humankind. [ed. note: in my case, she actually went so far as to schedule the times and days for lessons for a one-month period!]
I finally agreed to take a lump payment in advance and sent him my address and phone number. Yesterday, I received 3 postal money orders for a total of $2850 with some weak comments about needing extra money for food and incidentals! This was followed by an email saying that I should immediately wire this money, minus $500 for the 10 lessons he was going to take, to his father in Africa. [In my case, it was the difference between $450 and $4,000 Cdn]. By this time I finally figured out that I had a money-laundering scheme on my hands. I've also been getting phone calls from this guy every few minutes, until I told him that if I heard from him again, I would contact the police and the FBI.
Here's the sequel. I brought the checks to the post office and they turned out to be frauds. If I had cashed them I would have been out $2,850." [Further editor's note: if you do in fact actually receive any cheques or money orders, for anything you are suspicious about or for a greater amount than you agreed upon, the best thing to do is to immediately take it to the authorities and get them to check on the validity of the cheques. If it's for a greater amount than agreed upon, this is one of the signs that it's most likely a scam and that the cheques are likely bogus.]
For further information on frauds and scams, you can visit the following websites:
http://www.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp (Internet Fraud Complaint Centre, USA)
http://dmoz.org/Society/Issues/Fraud/Internet/ (dmoz open directory project list of pages that claim to fight scams and hoaxes)