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15.08.2004 Diaspora News

Ghanaian Crooks Target Small US Businesses

By PeaceFM
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MIDDLETOWN, Pa. -- A scam that targets small businesses has resurfaced in the Susquehanna Valley.

It starts with a phone call placed through an operator who helps the deaf.

Bob Stone received a phone call last week at his business Middletown Tire And Auto.

'I was real skeptical, 'cause I didn't believe what was going on,' Stone said.

The call came through a relay operator, someone who verbally relays the words being typed by the deaf individual making the call.

The caller was placing an unusual order for 20 tires.

'So she gives me a credit card number and it went through. So I'm thinking this is on the up and up,' Stone said.

Then it got a little more unusual.

The caller wanted the tires shipped to the western African nation of Ghana and even provided a shipper's number.

The scam ended when a UPS driver arrived to pick up the tires.

'He said let me call my supervisor. He went out to the truck and comes back in. He says that shippers number is for a Pep Boys in Broomall, PA,' Stone said.

If the tires had been shipped, within a few days Stone would have learned the credit card number was stolen, the tires would be in Ghana and he'd be out $2,600.

This is the third time this year this scam has surfaced in the Susquehanna Valley. Previously, two computer suppliers had been targeted, but now it appears the scammers are ready to roll in a whole new direction.

Once they received the tires, the scammers would likely sell them and pocket the profits.

Late last week, Stone's buyer called back looking for a tracking number for the tire shipment.

'I said, 'I got no tracking number and we didn't ship them. We think this is a scam.' And the lady goes, 'Sir, your customer has hung up,'' Stone said.

This scam targets small- to medium-size businesses.

The crooks hope that the business owner, eager to make a big sale, will quickly fill the order and ship it out, then get stuck with the bill later.