Tulsa Police are sending out an on-line warning. They say Internet scams from Nigeria have reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and Green Country is not immune.
The newest scheme targets businesses. It cost one Tulsa man $8,000, which is a devastating loss for his small, family company.
News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains how it works.
Bob Applegate's company makes anything from steel, from utility trucks to railroad cars. As with all growing businesses, every order counts. That's why a recent order sounded great in the beginning. Bob Applegate, A & M Trucking: "This was a TDY operator for disabled customers, so we thought we had a hearing impaired customer and they ordered $16,000 in truck parts."
The first two credit cards didn't clear. The second two did, but the names didn't match. Bob called police and the credit card companies, who advised him to pass. Bob Applegate: "It's hard to turn down $16,000 order, but it's not hard to turn down a $16,000 loss."
An East Tulsa business wasn't so fortunate. This company prides itself on high end auto parts and family friendly customer service and they got hit hard. The scam started the same way, with an operator calling on behalf of a hearing impaired person. Gary Murphy, Surf Side Auto Parts: "They're posing as a missionary group out of Africa that needs spark plugs for its trucks, its ministry work."
Gary sent two large orders of spark plugs. Before he shipped the third order, his credit card company called and said he'd been scammed; now Gary is out $8,200. His advice, get a signature. Gary Murphy: "On the second order, we'd asked for a signature and ID card over the fax but it never happened so even before we were notified, we were wondering. It was just too perfect."
Gary wants to warn other businesses that if the customer can't produce proper ID, just say bye-bye. The first phone call came from Illinois, the second one, from Yonkers, New York, even though both were traced back to Nigeria.
Sergeant Tony Celino with Tulsa's fraud squad says be wary of people who call through a third party. He also warns against doing business with anyone in Nigeria because their government does not cooperate with American investigations. He says if you don't get a signature on credit card purchases, the credit card doesn't have to honor it.