Online Businesses at Risk

Caught in the Middle: The Plight of Relay Telephone Operators Nationwide


  Business Owners' Experiences
with Nigerian Con Artists Using
the Relay Telephone Service for the Deaf

Posted February, 2007

Report from V. Williams: "I have been hit by the telephone relay scam, but thankfully, not hard. My husband and I own a truck repair shop in Oregon. We got a relay call from someone wanting to get prices on some injectors for a Cummins engine, which we gave them. The person then said he wanted to order 25 of these injectors, plus some other parts, bringing the total order to almost $11,000.

"This person started contacting us by fax. First he faxed me three credit cards, asking me to process each one for $2000, and then go back starting with the first card and charging each of them for an additional $1679. I ran the three cards for the $2000 and all declined, but I didnít think much of it at the time. I faxed the guy back, told him his cards were declined, so he faxed me back three more credit cards. When I ran the first one, it was approved but the other two were declined, and the red flags went up and we figured there was a scam here somewhere.

Report from pet breeder Lynda James (also in Oregon): "Pet breeders need to beware of these Nigerian scammers. We are talking live babies now! I am a long-time breeder of Abyssinian cats and do have a website. I also have a love for the hearing impaired and a history with them, and sign with these friends at church. So I take a relay call quite seriously!

"One came in recently, so of course I was ready to assume "hearing impaired," but then I'm hearing "from out of the country," and "can't find an Aby here," and of course there is also the language barrier to be considered. This man, who called himself Dennis Summer, wanted both of the current kittens I had advertised, so I replied that I needed to know more about where my kittens would be going and to what kind of home. I even asked him if he was a "pet broker," saying that if so, I could not help him. I asked for the name of his "shipping company" or "agent" that I was going to be dealing with and he gave me a shipper's name and address in Nigeria.

"No credit cards were ever mentioned; instead, he wanted certain facts from me, like my address, all phone numbers (including cell numbers), saying that when he had this info he would send me a cashier's check or a wire transfer for enough money for the kittens, plus their shipping. He said that, after I had cashed the check or had gotten the wire transfer, I was to take out my price for the kittens, then send the rest to his agent, who would then pick up the kittens and handle all the shipping from there on. Of course, I wasn't going for this, but wondered where the scamming part comes in, if I already had my money before anything else was to happen. (See below).

"Now get this! In his response, he referred to "the puppies" (not kittens), even offering to send me pictures of them every month so I would know how well they were being taken care of! And nowhere was there any mention of how complicated shipping an animal out of country is (like minimum six-month age limit, titer blood tests required to verify rabies vaccines and then an impound time at the other end).

"My son, who is a computer engineer, brought up the possibility of computer spyware on my system. And here's why. I had made no mention of "puppies" anywhere on my site as I don't raise dogs. But at this time I just happened to have a six-day-old litter of pedigreed Aussies. I had e-mailed many of my friends about this special event in my world of total cats, but they were the only ones who knew anything about "puppies." Not only that, but the name of my co-owner of this litter was "Summer" (the same name used by the scammer), who was mentioned in both my e-mails and in my address book. So now I'm wondering if it's possible for these guys to read my personal e-mails?

Ed.Note: I don't know about reading the e-mails, but there's a lot about spyware that I don't know. However, for an explanation of how this particular scam works (cashier's checks), read the article, "New Scam Uses Counterfeit Checks" at and also see the InternetScamAlert's website for more information and a link to four other Websites now publishing reports on this growing problem.

Here's another offers a good summary of their/their customer's experiences with counterfeit cashier's check scams, wire transfer, Western Union, and MoneyGram scams.

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by Barbara Brabec
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