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Landing the Shark: Artwork Scam Part Four

Sunday, June 28, 2015

                        Apologies to this beautiful blue predator of the deep for using his image.

It's getting real now. I've got "Julia Simpson" on the hook and she's fighting hard. I've stalled Scammy for a week, making him think I'm dumb enough to send both the painting and a huge refund check in the same package, without waiting for his bogus $1835 check to clear.  It's Saturday afternoon, April 5. I'm going to cut and paste my notes from that day.

April 5, 2014: About 3 pm. I get a call. I can hear a man’s voice say Hello? in a foreign accent. It’s tinny and distant. Liam answers at the same time. We both ask, “Hello?” and the man hangs up. He wasn’t figuring on getting two people. About 20 minutes later he calls again.

“Julie?” he asks. It sounds like “Zhulleh.” Again the accent, the tinny, distant, echoey sound. He sounds like he’s calling from the bottom of a well in Timbuktu.


“This is Julia Simpson’s husband. I want to know if you send the painting.”

Hmmm. What an odd way to introduce oneself, without using your own name. A chill goes down my guts to my feet. I don’t say anything for a moment.

“How did you get my phone number? Oh, right. I gave it to you. Hey. What’s your
phone number?”

He mumbles something like, “You do not need this phone number I am calling from, it is different phone.”

I can’t place the accent, but it’s heavy. Maybe Middle Eastern. Maybe even Russian. His voice is deep and very dark.

“Wow,” I say, stalling a bit. I put on an air of innocence, but at the same time drench my voice in sarcasm. “You sound like you’re in a foreign country. Very far away!”

“Did you send the painting?”

Oh you creep. At that moment anger explodes in little fireworks behind my eyes. I hate what he does for his miserable living, hate that he exploits people who can’t afford to be robbed, hate that he’s been posing as “Julia Simpson;” hate that he’s been so bold as to invade my home with his greed, his desire to get something for nothing, and try to rob me on top of it. I hate his icky voice. I want to smash him like a roach.

“How stupid do you think I am?” I hiss.

“Very very,” he snaps. It sounds like, "Beddy beddy."

“Really. Very very stupid,” I reply. I'm winding up to give him both barrels. I'm going to tell him he's a scum-sucking parasite who preys on innocent people, no better than an engorged, stinking tick on life.

There’s a rustle and a click. He knows I’ve nailed him, and hangs up on me, a coward through and through.  I hold the phone and stare at it as if he might reach out of it and grab my throat.

My heart is beating out of my chest. I am completely creeped out that he’s called me at home from whatever rathole he lives in, in whatever country he inhabits. It takes me awhile to compose myself and start to laugh. I realize that, in a way, I’ve won this sick game he’s playing. I’ve wasted almost a month of his time, stringing him along with emails that gave him almost what he was after, but not quite. That make him think he had me dead to rights. And then I’d slip out of his grasp again. I’ve won because I’ve figured out two of his modus operandi, and that’s armed me for any future approaches from shady art buyers. I can share my experiences here, and warn other innocent online vendors what kinds of snakes slither through the long, tangled cyberspace grass. I’ve won because I’ve learned something and lost not a cent doing it. I’ve gotten his hopes up, kept them high with my dopey friendly rube act, and when I could no longer keep the ruse up, finally and completely dashed them. He thought he’d get a painting, which he’d probably simply throw away, and $1415 out of my bank account. He got bupkis.

As long as he doesn’t call me in the middle of the night, I’m good. Whyyy did I give him my phone number?? OK, he pinked me.

--end of journal notes--

It's June, 2015, and I haven't gotten any calls from Spammy. In the interim, I have gotten several inquiries, all from overseas, wanting to talk with me about purchasing paintings. And I've ignored them.

In the end, "Julia Simpson" did me a favor, and that's a favor I'm passing on to you. Don't take any wooden nickels. 


Glad to know the end, but it does leave that unsatisfying feeling of playing whack-a-mole with creeps. You're now on 10 more sucker lists and this guy goes on to contact 20 more Julies, waiting for just that one payoff. Ughhh. Thanks for at least wasting his time. (oh, and next time you give out your ph. no., make it the number for the Ohio FBI office ;-)

By the way (sidenote), for those who've noticed, the "Nigerian" email scams have become VERY stupid, loaded with poor English/spelling/grammar, and the interesting reason, that's been deduced, is that the scammers want responses from ONLY the MOST naive, gullible, illiterate people amongst us (they WANT 99% of recipients to easily recognize their missives as scams, so they can concentrate on the 1%, or whatever, of receptive targets). Sometimes I wish I believed in heaven & Hell, so I could imagine these people's future!

It never occurred to me that, as Cyberthrush said, they were using poor English on purpose, to reel in the exceptionally stupid/gullible/greedy. It makes sense. Obviously, if an intelligent person responds, it just wastes their time, as Julie has demonstrated. I like the idea of giving them the number of the local FBI. If it didn't guarantee me being put on the scammer's list of easy targets, I might play along, but I hate spam in all its forms more than I enjoy playing "string along the scammer".

Posted by Anonymous June 28, 2015 at 4:04 AM

I love you Julie! You make everything so exciting! I could imagine my heart pounding with the anger you felt! Thanks for allowing us to live vicariously through your lesson : )

Hi Julie:

I have an email account that is a "honeypot" for these scams. When I receive an "interesting" one, I pretend to go along. Most are the usual 419 scams (usually Nigerian). When they ask for a phone number I tell them my new IPhones were stolen. My record is keeping a scammer going back and fourth for almost 3 months. I actually sent one $.01 by Moneygram and he had to travel quite a distance to retrieve it.

Unless your good at hiding your identity I don't recommend this (TOR browser helps). The more people waste their time, the lower their return. That just might discourage enough to find some other way (again probably to scam people).

Using poor English is an excellent filter when trying to scam people. I always respond with various mistkes (sic) in my writing.

It would be nice if there were real spam filters that could catch these lowlifes. The technology is there. The will to use them is not.


Posted by Anonymous June 28, 2015 at 8:05 AM

I think the creepiest part of this story is that he actually called your home. Ugh. To hear his voice, visceral contact with a conniving, thieving jerk. I hope this kind of thing never happens again, although it does make for a great series of wild blog posts!

This has been every bit as good as a Ludlum novel. Good for you, Zick!

I can't believe the creep called you. I get these requests from time to time and I just ignore them. All the scenarios are ludicrous, so it's pretty obvious that they aren't for real. The unfortunate thing is that when someone legit actually does inquire about a painting they've seen on my website I automatically wonder if it's a scam. Strange world we live in.

Julie, I can only imagine how you felt to receive that call!--Not something you expected, I know! That was such a close contact with a world so far from what any of us know, or want to know. At least you have the satisfaction that you not only gave him a big disappointment, but you also cost him the phone call (maybe) and you diverted his attention away from some unexpecting, and uneducated person whom he might have otherwise been scamming. Too bad we can't all have the pleasure of knowing that he has been removed from our otherwise healthy and happy internet use. May the Bird of Paradise fly up his nose!!!

What a scum sucker is correct. I too, get calls and texts and emails. I had one two weeks ago, middle eastern accent and said if I didn't call a number with in a certain time frame, I should beware something bad would happen to me. He left this on my voicemail @ work. I was furious. It was a DC number. I binged it and sure enough, same modus operandi. I was so angry that someone would threaten me, I wanted to pull his wormy butt through the phone.
I just ignore them and I feel sorry for folks who fall for this stuff and the seniors they threaten as well.

Posted by Anonymous June 29, 2015 at 7:36 PM

I just received an email scum scam like the one you describe--Google guided me to your post. Thanks for writing up your adventure; I was certain it was a scam but thought it was worth a couple seconds to check out. At least the email had one positive outcome: I enjoyed reading about your epic shark struggle.

This is a great story, Julie-- I certainly did NOT have time to read the whole thing, and yet I did! Thanks-- I'm sure you've staved off a bunch of potential anguish among your readers. NIce catch!

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