‘Tis The Season…for scammers

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I am writing this post after a long absence, because I feel it necessary to take the time I haven’t had, to hopefully help someone else avoid disaster.

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a person through this site. “He” said he loved my paintings and wanted to buy some art for his wife as a surprise gift for their 20th anniversary.

We artists love what we do, but often feel that it is for naught, with long periods of no sales, yet we keep creating, because our soul dictates we must.  This person gave me a price range, which made me suspicious, I mean, who does that? The range was from two to thirteen thousand dollars. My inner voice said, “red flag,” but my need for appreciation, not to mention money, overrode that quiet voice.

We communicated back and forth several times, he finally picking out a couple pieces he wanted and adding on a third that was small, but which went with one of the other two. I quoted him a price several thousand dollars less for the paintings than his top parameter, plus shipping of approximately $340 to Virginia, where he said he lived. He was very happy with everything, which he should have been, since I didn’t gouge him.

He is, he said, an “ocean engineer,” and in the North Atlantic now with 12 trainees. He would be returning to Virginia soon and they would be moving right away to the Philippines.  His wife, “Gina,” loved art and he was anxious to get them in time for their anniversary. Problem was, he was on a ship and also his wife handles all of the finances, so he was going to have an associate handle the money to be sent to me.

He told me he was being given $2,600 for moving his things, and that he had his own shipper that he’s used in the past, and if I would have the paintings boxed for shipping, this person would pick them up wherever I arranged.ll

Along the way, with prompt emails, and many of them, there seemed a few inconsistencies or changes, but nothing that set off a huge red flag, though I was still wary.

He FedExed an overnight check to me including his $2,600 he was being given for moving his personal items to the Phillipines in overage, and asked that he could entrust me to – after verifying funds and having the check cleared, of course, do a cash bank transfer of the remainder, after boxing costs. He asked me to let him know when I received it, which I did, and when I deposited. He said it shouldn’t take more than 2 days to clear and he hoped to get the shipment picked up by Friday (on Monday). He was concerned about getting it to his wife in time. The check was for over $6,000.

His emails were courteous, professional sounding, but every once in awhile there would be a flag for me. He was well-spoken with a good command of the English language, but then he would say something like “I wanna..” Wanna?? Red flag.

The check I received was from “Rita Lopez,” and drawn on Sun Bank as an Official (cashier’s, or registered) check. There was no address of the bank, but I thought, okay, I’ll play, and took it to my bank.

The teller immediately asked me if I know this person, and I said no. She asked if I was sure it wasn’t a scam. I said, “No, to be honest, I wonder if it is.” She got the manager.

He told me immediately, “It’s a scam,” and pointed out something that even my sharp artist’s eye had missed: The Sun Bank was ever so slightly slanted down on the top of the check, almost indiscernible, but I did notice when he pointed it out. He then called Sun Bank’s corporate office, which is headquartered in Florida. After he gave the numbers on the check, he was informed that the particular branch it was issued from was in Georgia, in the Atlanta area.

He then called that branch. This man was a pillar of patience, taking at least 30 minutes of his time between the two calls, endless menus, hold time, etc, before he reached a representative. After a hold time that seemed to never end, he was informed that the check was indeed, a fake. It was never issued from that branch, and there is no Rita Lopez on their files.

He was a true angel for me, protecting me from not only losing money, (Even if the check is shown as a deposit in your account, it can still not be cleared, and usually isn’t!) but he also told me that if I had deposited the check and it was a scam (which this one was), the bank would immediately cancel my account, ban me from further dealings, and in effect, I would be on a permanent shit list. I would not be able to go to my branch and close out my accounts, because I would have to wait for corporate to send my final closing balance.

Me! The injured party!! A persona non grata to my bank of many years, because they couldn’t be sure I wasn’t in on the scam. Plus, I would be out another $2,600 that I would have forwarded to the criminal, assuming it was all cleared and hunky dory.

This is humiliating. As a modest person, I have come to believe in my talent, after 45 years of painting, and many of teaching. This nice sale would be renewed affirmation that my art is valued and appreciated, and though I have made many sales, and do, this was really coming at a time I could use it, emotionally, and monetarily. But it could have been so much worse!

I reported this person and submitted all correspondence to the government scam reporting and my AZ attorney general’s office.

The name this person used is “Steven Green.” I tracked all of his emails and have the dates, time, and places they were opened from.

Everyone, BE AWARE. They are out in droves, and the scams are elaborate and complex.

There’s a special place in hell for scammers, but in the meantime, we can refuse to be fooled.

Be safe!

 

 

Red, Green and Holiday Blue(s)

CHRISTMAS ROOMHas it been a year already? Thanksgiving is already gone, and Christmas is quickly approaching. Though they conjure up joy, peace, and good will among men, the reality is that for millions of people, the holidays are welcomed with as much enthusiasm as a root canal. There are ways, however, to make it all far less painful, and possibly rewarding!
First, identify the underlying cause. There is one, and usually they are rooted in loneliness, loss or anxiousness. “Alone” doesn’t have to mean “lonely,” and worrying about the future wastes your present.
Here are some suggestions that have worked for me on those “off” holidays:
  1. Force yourself to go out into the world, and look for someone to help. This can be volunteering at homeless, children’s, women’s or animal shelters, nursing homes and house-bound seniors, Food kitchens, and more. Or start small; all around you there are people that can be helped in small ways on a daily basis,  that will make their days brighter. I am quite tall, for example. When I go to the market, I always offer to help reach an item for a more “vertically-challenged” person who appears to be looking upward on any aisle. They love it, and you will feel great. Remember, the more love you give, the more you get. A link to find where to volunteer: http://www.volunteermatch.org/
  2. Get moving! If you have a piece of exercise equipment at home, use it relentlessly. It will promote endorphins, so you’ll feel better, and while everyone is piling on pounds, you’ll be whittling them off and looking great. If you have no equipment, climbing stairs or even jogging in place will work wonders.
  3. Get busy! What have you been putting off that needs to be done around your house? We all have those “projects” that we put off. No time like the present!
  4. Pamper yourself. Indulge in long hot bubble baths while listening to your favorite music. Keep hydrated, and not by hitting the bottle, unless it’s water! Get plenty of sleep, but as a reward, not an escape. After all that exercise, it shouldn’t be difficult.
  5. Avoid listening to music on the radio and watching television. Oddly, the joyous Christmas music is mostly sad. Avoid cable television from at least Thanksgiving to New Year’s. The shows on every channel will be holiday-themed. Rent your favorite upbeat DVD’s and watch them for entertainment, or find an instructional channel and learn something new.
  6. If none of the above appeal to you: Ignore them altogether. If you are alone and you hate that fact, sometimes it’s just best to make Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s “just another day.” It’s a challenge if you leave your home, but I recommend at least going out to a movie. Pick one that’s not holiday-themed, preferably an action movie. They help to get the adrenaline flowing. No sappy romances!

As a last resort, maybe a chuckle or a smile will be had from listening to my “Helpful Holiday Tips.”

https://www.youtube.com/user/LFAZ/videos

Laughter always was and will be the best medicine! Go find some!

Cafe Gratitude

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I give thanks constantly. All day. Every day. I believe that grounding myself in gratitude within my faith makes me appreciate more the everyday things….the things we take for granted.

We wake up each day. (Gratitude) We can think, see, feel, hear, touch, taste (our coffee!), smell…..(Gratitude). On and on. I think that once we make a conscious effort to realize that every precious moment of life is a miracle, we will be more grateful, and through being more grateful, and extending kindness and love to others, more blessings will come our way. It’s a well that never stops giving, never runs dry.

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While in Santa Cruz in the summer, I count the days between the farmer’s markets. The Central Coast of California has such rich volcanic soil that many bountiful crops are harvested and brought by farmers directly to the outdoor markets. I relish these so much for not only the healthy organic fruits and vegetables they provide, but for the colors, smells, textures, – experience of meeting and talking to everyone, learning about them, making new friends.

One such friend is Serene, from whom I’ve been getting a dollar-a-minute massages from the past couple of years. She has such a gentle and beautiful soul, which combined with her talent for finding every single knot and pain I didn’t even know I had, makes her just a fabulous human being.

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Yesterday while getting my weekly 20 minute massage, which – no pun intended- I “sorely” needed, I was wearing my bluetooth, something I never do, as I certainly want to tune out the world while getting my massage, but which was necessary for an important phone call I was expecting from the USPS as to why I haven’t received my forwarded mail in a months’ time. I took the expected call to find it was a local friend reminding me that “our” birthdays were coming up. (I wish I could forget!) His, in a couple of days, and mine a week from yesterday. I told him I hadn’t forgotten and would call him back, then explaining and apologizing to Serene for taking a call.

At the end of the massage she hugged me (as we always do) and said “The massage today is on me, for your birthday.” I told her no, I couldn’t accept that, but she insisted. It was then that I told her- which I don’t normally point out to people who are on my “list”- that I had been naming her in my prayers the past couple of years for added blessings in her life, which of course is true. She thanked and hugged me again.

Life is a circle. We may lose our “groove” at times in our lives, but the circle will continue. What we give, we always will get back. Perhaps in other or unexpected ways, but always the circle will continue. What we choose to put out to the world is just that: choice.

I choose to start and end my days in “Cafe Gratitude,” – which, by the way, is a real place, a lovely cafe in Santa Cruz, but even when I’m back home in Scottsdale, a place my heart and soul reside in.

Every day.