In the past several months, fence companies throughout Florida have received emails and text messages requesting estimates for an individual who is sick and preparing to move into a home that they just purchased. The names, emails, phone numbers, and home location are always different, but the “buyer” take the same approach each time. Here are the basics:
A potential customer contacts a fence company via text message or email. The individual wants to know if the company call install their fence, and if they accept credit card payments. The requirements are very specific and often complicated. The potential customer cannot meet in person for an estimate, and claims to be in the hospital with some sort of critical illness. All they need is a fence for a home they just purchased or are in the process of purchasing. If pressed for further proof of ownership, the potential customer reminds the fence company that they are in the hospital and do not have access to their closing documents.
The potential customer will ask the contractor for a bill including all taxes and fees, and then have a strange request- they insist on over paying in case of any obstacles, and as a “convenience fee” (usually about 10%) for trusting and helping them. They insist on paying via credit card before the work has been completed, or even started. They claim that the fence needs to be installed ASAP.
When that fence company runs the credit card and then provides the potential customer with the actual cost, the customer asks for the overpayment to be returned to them via cash or check. If the fence company did not catch on to the scam in the beginning, they most likely committed credit card fraud, as the potential customer is most likely using a stolen credit card. When the owner of the credit card notices the charge and files a dispute, it comes back to the fence company, and that “potential customer” is already long gone.
Contractors and small businesses beware, this scam could have a very negative impact on your business should you fell for it. Don’t forget, if something feels too good to be true, it is. If something doesn’t feel right, turn the project down and do not get involved. The customer is not always right.