Thursday, February 26, 2004

Dear Friends, Family & Business Associates:

I would like everyone to be aware of this type of internet fraud that has been happening very frequently and yet not highly publicized. Please take time to read.

Everyone is forewarned to be careful about buying items off the internet, saying that some sellers do not get the items delivered after getting paid and then they disappear just to re-appear with a whole different identity. Well, everyone knows that type of scam but as familiar as I am about the internet, I have never heard of the one that happened to my business until it actually happened to me. Needless to say, what happened is way beyond a nightmare.

As most of you know, we have a business in Santa Monica, California selling art. As of January we had to close our location because of some landlord problems and the fact that our business is not doing well financially. After we closed down, to recover some of the cost we lost in improving the place, we have decided to sell our movable art walls that we had at our place. We placed an ad at a website www.recycler.com and were hoping to get a response. After about a week, we have received an e-mail from a guy who said himself to be bishop from Jerusalem wanted to purchase the wall. We thought it was farfetched and didn’t really pay attention but he e-mailed the second time saying the same thing. He said his name was Bishop Beshem Baha yet his e-mail address read as Skipo Segan skipolaladodo@yahoo.com (which he later changed to skipolalado@yahoo.com). This made me a little suspicious. We told him that we are in California and we can’t ship the art walls to Jerusalem. He responded by saying that he ships items back and forth to different countries all the time and he have shippers that he used in a regular basis. I still was a skeptic, for me until the sale is paid for and it clears the bank, every intention to buy is just an intention. He e-mailed again saying that he have a brother in the Lord who is in the US and owes him some money, more than our walls cost and that he will have him wire the money to us. He then asked if he could trust us to wire the shippers money that was over the amount of our walls. We responded by saying that he is a man of God and would know who he could trust. The cashier’s check was delivered through FedEx. I have always been spiritual and so, I made myself believe that this is a miracle specially that it was a bishop purchasing our walls. We deposit the cashier’s check as soon as possible and the bank says it would take 2 business days to clear. We then received e-mails from the bishop again urging us to send the shipper’s money and that he is getting nervous if he could trust us. We responded and told him that as soon as the bank clears the funds we will send his shippers the amount that exceeds the sale amount. The check we received was for $4,300.00 and the walls cost $2,000.00. At this point the supposed bishop’s e-mail address has changed to Izaga Daipo izagadaipo_inc@yahoo.com. This made me a bit suspicious again but since I did have a check on my hand, I thought, just wait and see if it clears. After 2 days it did clear and I thought, wow! It was a miracle that somebody from Jerusalem was purchasing our walls! I thought we were free and clear. We withdrew the money, sent them via Western Union $2,300 and put the rest on our personal account to start paying the bills we needed to pay that pushed the selling of the walls in the first place. After 2 business days, I check my business account again for other transactions I had and discovered that my account was negative the full amount of $4,300.00. I called Washington Mutual and they told me that after the check cleared they have found something wrong with the check and that they had to pull it out and investigate. Did anybody know that when a bank clears a check after their clearing period (2-5 days) that they could pull it out? Why did they not just hold it the whole time they where checking it? This is when the nightmare began! The bank froze our account, both business and personal to investigate the fraudulent check that we deposited. Have Washington Mutual called us to alert us of what happened, we could have pulled out the Western Union transaction we made. As if we did not feel stupid enough to be the victim here, the so called bishop e-mailed us again saying the shippers who were on their way to pick up his purchase had a terrible accident leaving 2 of them dead and the other 3 in the hospital in fatal condition, that now he needs to cancel the sale and that we need to send him back the rest of his money so he could help the shippers family. What a bogus story!

After the realization that we have been scammed, I went to the internet fraud website http://www.ifccfbi.gov/ and found out that what had happened to us is actually common. How come I have not heard of it? How come everyone I know has not heard of it? If it was that common it needs to be known so people would be aware of it and not be another victim. I went to the police department and was told they get very similar reports at least once a week and that they cannot do anything about it but refer us to the internet fraud department of the FBI and report it. He said it’s one of the oldest trick in the book. Again, if this was true, how come the general public was not made aware of this!

This letter is a challenge to everyone, to spread the word and protect people you know. If you know a news person who could expose this type of fraud, please have them contact me right away. Let us put an end to this, let us build awareness in this technological age. I thought if you are the one selling that there is no way you could be the victim, was I wrong!

This is also a challenge to anyone who knows a lawyer who could do something to challenge the banks to protect their clients. To not clear a transaction until they are absolutely sure that they have looked into the transaction every possible way.

This is also a challenge to our government. I believe that this type of internet fraud is an act of TERRORISM. The US government should protect the interest of their residents from technological terrorism such as this.

Let us help each other put a stop on this. Awareness is the key.

Thank you for taking time to read this.

If anyone wants to contact me that could offer some leads to the media, please call either Gene at 310.925.6481 or Jhoiey at 310.925.6479 or you can fax us as 310.477.2503 or e-mail us at art@chromaFlux.com