Do not ever pay for shipping for something from someone you don't know.
Be aware of these names throwing out this scam:
- Joanne Vickerd
- Caroline Briggs
This free piano scam is targeting piano teachers and students, and what teacher or student wouldn't jump at the chance to have a free Yamaha G2 baby grand?
The grand piano scam starts with an email to unknown recipients:
Hello, My name is Joanne, I am a widow looking to give away my husband's baby grand piano. Please let me know if you will adopt it or have someone in mind who wants it. Thank you Joanne
This email may come in multiple times because that's how scam phishing works.
If you ask how "she" found you, "she" will reply with something like:
Got your contact from a friend who recommended people like you that might need it or that might have someone to refer. She said something about the music teachers association.
After you respond, "Joanne" apologizes for the late response because "she" is "relocating" and sends you pictures of a beautiful grand piano along with a story about how her late husband would have wanted it to go to a good home. She also starts reeling her phishing rod by saying the piano is in storage with some "selling" specs that look official (condition, make/manufacturer, etc...)
Once you are "hooked" you are asked to promise that you will take care of the piano. An effective part of the scam script.
Once you agree to be nice to the piano she says she will "inform the movers" who will contact you. She will give you a web address to a site that looks fairly official for a moving company in Tennesee:
This is a scam phishing site, hosted in Panama by a hosting company that is notorious for hosting scam operations.
Once you contact them they will send you an email with three payment choices- $1,520, $950, $680 for same day, 5 day or 10 day delivery.
Hello, The Reference code JV1013R points to a Yamaha Baby Grand Piano that should be delivered to 1234 Somewood Ave., Bellingham, WA 98225, USA. Please find below the estimate cost of delivery to your location. * Referral ID : JV1013R * Item/Package : Yamaha Baby Grand Piano * Item/Package Weight : 670lbs (304kg) * Dimensions: Length 5' 0" (151 cm), Width 4'11" (146cm)" * Item Provider: Joanne Vickerd Below you find the cost estimates of delivery to your provided address as highlighted below Scot Ranney (address removed for blog post) (set up inclusive) * SHIPPING COST ESTIMATE: According to distance, weight and insurance $1,520 (Next day express delivery with insurance) $950 (4 days delivery with insurance) $680 (10 days delivery with insurance) You are required to get back to us preferred chosen plan and selected payment option from the list of options below so we can prepare your moving invoice. Cash-App PayPal (Using Friends and Family ONLY) Zelle _We thank you for using __Gregories Moving & Storage__(R)__. We look forward to serving you in the future_ _Sincerely, _ _Clearance & Delivery Dept._ _Gregories Moving & Storage(R)__ UNBEATABLE TRUCKING AND TRANSPORT SERVICES._
Now, here is where you should see the red flag.
The payment options are all non-refundable payment options. Any real company would allow credit card payment, but these guys won't because you can do a charge-back which would get your money back and at the same time expose their operation.
Once you choose a shipping option they send you an invoice:
Everything starts to look like a real deal.
However, with a little digging it's easy to find the red flags that make this an obvious scam.
1. The address matches a shipping company, but it's not the same shipping company and they have no idea who "gregories" is.
2. There is no mention of "Joanne Vickerd" anywhere online that even remotely matches the details "she" gave.
3. The payment options are 100% scam style: Never send money anywhere that you can't get back.
4. The better business bureau that oversees Johnson City, TN, has no listing for "Gregories Moving and Storage."
5. The emails the scammers use are Gmail. ALL LEGIT BUSINESSES have email addresses with their own domain, not gmail.
6. There are no "yelp" reviews (there is a legit business called "Gregory's Moving and Storage") which you can see is what the scammers tried to piggyback on.
7. The phone call was with someone who claimed to run the company but could barely speak English and was evasive when asked pointed questions about the business. This in itself of course doesn't mean much, but it adds to the list of red flags.
These and a few other red flags make this 100% for certain a scam.
I like to string scammers along, it's kind of a hobby of mine, and this one was interesting but scary because I think a lot of piano teachers and students might let their emotions get in the way of logic because it's a free Yamaha G2 baby grand on the line.
Last but not least, do a quick web search for things like "free piano scam" or "free piano fraud" and you'll find other people who weren't so lucky, or people who figured out in time it was a scam. Such as this piece:
Just remember: If it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true.