Dance Teacher Alert
Updated 24 January, 2007
Caveat Instructor
Internet Dance Scammers Improve Their Techniques

From the Editor's Desk

Just a reminder to all dance and music teachers to be alert for emails purportedly from potential students, but often from con artists. They are constantly refining their tactics, and one of the newer ploys is to use counterfeit American Express Gift Certificates.

Money orders and gift certificates can and are faked. [See Police warn of cyber-scam promising money Providence Journal 1/5/07 pg B1]

Although I have never heard of AMEX gift cheques being used in the dance & music scams, for teachers, the rule should be to NEVER refund or return money to anyone until you are SURE their check, money order or gift certificate has really cleared. Better yet, refuse to take checks, money orders or traveller's checks for more than what you are charging.

Here's How It Works

The con artist sends you an email asking about prices. If you reply, you will get an email asking for multiple private classes and how much for the total.

When they receive the total and confirm the classes, they send you a certified check. However for any number of reasons the certified check,money order or gift cheque will be for substantially more than the classes.

The con artist will ask you to cash the check and either return the extra money or send the money on to someone else. And as a honest instructor, you will do so. However the check will be a fraud and by the time your bank notifies you, your money will be long gone.

Here's a high level scam email that I received in 2006

Hello Teacher,
I came aross your contact at the www.ridance.com and i want to know the modality of your teaching,price per hour and other details necessary.E-mail me with the required details asap.Thank you.
Robert Barris
The subject line read, 'dance lesson for my son'
This email bears some traits of a Nigerian 419 scam letter. The second 'i' & the 'asap' are not capitalized and in the U.S. it is rare for someone to use a greeting of 'Teacher' in an email. However, the writer mentions where he saw the information. This is the first time, I have seen this detail in a scam email.

I responded with my ballroom dance prices. On November 17, I received the following:
Deborah Nash,
Thank you so much for your swift response and sorry that i have to respond so late,its just that i have been so much busy all these while.Well,i want the lesson for say three times in a week one hour at each time of the lesson.I want the lesson for a period of 8 weeks,so let me have the Total cost of that.In your reply,pls include the name,addresss and a phone number so that a Check could be send to that effect.Once the check is mailed out,i shall send to you a confirmation of the tracking number so that once the check has been received,you may notify me and my son shall proceed to meeet up with you okay.

Notice, the flowery language (what a lovely thing it would be if Americans spoke thus!), some missing punctuation and capitals, the use of abbreviations ('pls') and the gratuitous use of the word 'okay'. It is obvious that the writer is not a native English speaker because he mangles his verb tenses ('have to respond'), does not properly create adverbs, ('so late'), and uses phrasing unusual to the U.S. ('i have been so much busy') .

Of course, this does not prove scam, but 'Mr. Barris' goes on to discuss sending a check. He does this in some detail. All combined, we can see that if I reply, the writer will indeed send me a certified check. Strangely, the certified check will be for more than what I am charging (Mr.Barris will have a good reason for this), and because he trusts my honest nature, he will request that I send the difference back to him or to a third party. (By the way, Nigerians participating in this con and many who don't, justify their illegal behaviour by saying that it's just fine to con people who are trying to make a quick buck, but yet many of their scams take advantage of the honest upright person.)

Weeks later, the bank will call to tell me that the 'certified check' has not cleared and the bank has debited my account. A Providence Journal account of this scam claims that some banks will absorb the cost. Not so. Even though they told you that the check was fine, the bank will ALWAYS debit your account.

I have received other obvious scam letters that appear to have local addresses (Massachusetts) and even phone numbers, and have heard from belly dance, folk dance and music teachers who have received similar emails. The con artists are trying this stunt with every business on the internet.

Look at the Email's Address Section

Scam artists use many different names and email addresses. The email address that you can see, is not their actual email, in fact it may be an unsuspecting person's email which the con artists have co-opted and are using as a false front.

Scammers often make the mistake of sending out what looks like a personal email to many addresses in the same email. When you get an email you are not sure about, look at the 'To:' line in the email address. If it has an email that is not yours or 'undisclosed recipients' or some other listing that is not your email, it is a scam. If your email is the only email listed, it does not prove the legitimacy of the email, but it has the possibility of being a true inquiry.

It's Not Always Nigerians

All the dance and music teacher emails I've seen, appear to be from non-English speakers. They come primarily from Africa and Eastern European countries. However there are many other email scams that sound like they are really coming from a native English speaker. Sooner or latter you will get an email that reads just fine.

Your Bank and the Government Can't/Won't Do Anything

The Secret Service would be the organization to contact, but there are so many of these scams and they are so hard to trace that NO ONE is interested in prosecuting. If you receive a fraudulent email, just delete it. If you have already responded, DO NOT send them ANY money or checks. The check they send you will bounce. United States banking regulations allow your bank to say that the check is certified, but the check is not valid and will not clear. When that happens, your bank will debit the money from your account PLUS charge you a bounce fee.

The United States government and the banks claim they can not cross international borders to hunt down thousands of minor offenders. What they really mean is that your loss does not impact them enough for banks and governments to put some muscle into fraud prevention and banking laws. However, when an elderly Chinese woman was defrauded, China 'discussed' the problem with Nigeria and the criminals were caught and the money returned.

The upshot is - If you have already sent back money to one of these scams, you should contact the Secret Service so they can understand the magnitude of the problem. They will take your information, but the chance of getting your money back is nil.

Can't get enough scam?
Here's another example

From June 2005
SUBJECT LINE: Extremely Urgent !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i  and my fiance will like to book (A Private Lesson with u) for the days
listed below and i want you to give me the total amount for the total hours
booked immediately.

July 5th - July 10th 2005
4hrs lesson on Tuesay with my fiance
4hrs lessonon Thursday  with my fiance
4hrs lesson on Friday with my fiance
4hrs lesson on Saturday with my fiance
2hrs lesson on Sunday with my fiance

July 12th - July 17th 2005
4hrs lesson on Tuesay with my fiance
4hrs lessonon Thursday  with my fiance
4hrs lesson on Friday with my fiance
4hrs lesson on Saturday with my fiance
2hrs lesson on Sunday with my fiance

We will like the lesson to start on July 5th because our wedding
day is arroud the corner

As soon as i receive your response, my husband will forward you payment
for the day booked.


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