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E-mail Scammers Hit Wine Retailer

One of the latest e-mail scams going around the Internet appears to be targeted at the wine industry. This scam operates at a slightly more sophisticated level than the now famous Nigerian scam. That scam begins with polite greetings (usually in all capital letters) and ends with with promises to share in a large sum of money if the victim will only help with the transfer of a large sum of money out of [insert country name here].

This latest wine focused scam masquerades as request for a private wine tasting and dinner for a large group from "out of town."

Here is the text of the e-mail recently received by a San Francisco wine retailer:

I am Bernie James.I want to book for a group of 10 persons arriving from London for the month of November.They will all come in your place as from November 17th,18th, and 19th each for wine tasting and dine .if you are available for my date,send me details about what you offer and pricing. Contact us via [email protected] Best regards, Bernie James +447045752007

Innocuous enough, no? When the retailer in question wrote back with a quote, this is what they received in response:

Hello , Thanks for your reply and assistance so far. Base on trust and confidence, I will make a payment of $2,000.00 to you in advance, this is because I m not sure of what the guests might like to eat and drink as such will cover the cost of their meals, and their transportation arrangement to your place.

Moreover, we were able to make an arrangement with a pre-paid car hiring agent who will supply the guests with vehicles and drivers and other logistics prompting and arrangements for the group, which they will be using in going to your place . So in order not to share the credit card information with a third party, I have decided that only one person will have to handle the credit card information.

More so, the prepaid agent is not yet a credit card merchant therefore cannot charge credit cards. On my own side, i would have sent him his money direct. So once you are in receipt of my credit card details,you are required to charge $8,000.00 in your account then deduct $2,000.00 as initial deposit and transfer $6,000.00 to the prepaid car hire agent whose information I will forward to you once this is confirmed.

NOTE: That the Agent will be providing cars and drivers, purchase of flight ticket and visa, luggage handling, security and other logistics prompting and travel arrangements,
Confirm this message and provide me with your
(3) PHONE NUMBERS for office record.
All checks and balances shall be done with the group leader on the final day.

Get back to me immediately.

Bernie James

Luckily the retailer in question smelled a rat and stopped communicating with Mr. Bernie James, but he is no doubt busy sending e-mails to other retailers or wineries each day.

It goes without saying, but any requests to transfer money should be looked upon with great suspicion and under no circumstances should companies or individuals give out their bank account numbers, routing numbers, or credit card numbers to prospective "customers." Even if they do have UK cell phone numbers instead of Nigerian ones.

For more information on how to spot fraudulent e-mails, please see this handy guide provided by Microsoft.

Comments (10)

Arthur wrote:
11.14.08 at 10:17 PM

Do people really fall for this?
Have wineries or wine businesses fallen for this?

Wink Lorch wrote:
11.15.08 at 6:03 AM

Very good thing to highlight this, Alder, even though one hopes people are already aware of these scams, there's always the possibility of one innocent who does fall for it.
The format of this one is very similar to ones that were circulating to owners of holiday vacation homes for let.

Morton Leslie wrote:
11.15.08 at 8:29 AM

Another scam we see frequently is the " I bought two bottles of wine at your retail room, paid for them in cash, and they were both bad" scam. This may sound naive, but there was a time that most wineries would replace the wines with no questions asked.

Drea wrote:
11.16.08 at 8:48 AM

Over the summer, we received an e-mail order with rush shipping. It looked suspicious to me on site, as it hadn't come through out website order form, and they wanted it yesterday. They also attached four different credit cards to run "in case one didn't work".

Shady stuff.

Kris Moe wrote:
11.16.08 at 9:15 AM

Pretty slick. I'm impressed by the quality of the writing. I get one of these scam requests every quarter or so for my golf school business and it's typically from Nigeria or China and poorly written.

Anyway thanks for the heads up.

Eric wrote:
11.16.08 at 9:24 AM

This is a variation on one we get with some regularity:

The Winery/Vineyard,
Greetings from Tokyo , Japan , i got your contact from your website and will like to order some wines urgently to meet up with my Barbecue party, I know of a shipper that can get this order delivered to my place. Also let me know if payment by credit card is okay, since this is the only means to get payment to you fast.
Waiting for your anticipated reply.

Usually, it begins something like, I'm John Nelson, an American, who had your wine at a party and would like to order five cases for my upcoming birthday...

The first time we received one of them, I responded thinking it was real and traded some e-mails with the person who sent it (I think). The red flag for me was that the shipper they wanted to use would only do business if *we* wired them the cost of shipping, that the customer would then charge back to us on his credit card. When I suggested that's not how it worked, I did not hear back.

Since then we get these a few times a month, always from some Asian country, and always from some "American" who has no grasp of the English language...

Anonymous wrote:
11.16.08 at 10:57 AM

A variation of this scam has been making the rounds at various restaurants in San Francisco. Unfortunately, a few houses have fallen for it, I'm sad to say.

Jack at F&B wrote:
11.16.08 at 11:09 AM

I've received two different versions of this; it implied I ran a restaurant.

Dylan wrote:
11.16.08 at 4:38 PM

That is sneaky. They quickly tried to ease the victim's doubt reminding them what the additional $6,000 was going toward. Regardless of the justification, it all still seems very fishy.

Jesse Porter wrote:
11.17.08 at 10:19 AM

Moreover, we were able to make arrangement with immigration department to furnish the guests with social security numbers . we just need one current number for verification, therefore please supply your SS number to my agent when you drop off the $6,000.

More so, if you have any jewelry or valuables, please feel free to bring those too when you meet him in a dark alley down by the wharf.

Best regards,
Bernie James

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