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Edmonton contractor foils a conspiracy to defraud

Fake renovation request at a fake property were part of an attempt to steal $27,000 from this renovation pro


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July 3, 2018 by John Bleasby

Back in November 2015, Canadian Contractor reported how Edmonton roofer Allen Shaw was nearly scammed by a fake client posing as a homeowner. Shaw had drawn up a roof replacement quote based on a drive-by visit, but grew suspicious when he noted the house was up for sale and the client declined to meet face to face to discuss the job. Turns out, it was a con job. The scammer was really after Shaw’s bank account number, to which he promised to transfer a $6,000 payment.

Scammers targeting legitimate businesses can be very creative and resourceful. Be on guard!

Shaw was lucky, and the scam was not that major. However, the recent experience of James Belovich of Refine Renovations was on a higher level. As reported by CBC, Belovich was asked to quote on a basement renovation in an Edmonton home by the supposed homeowners who claimed to be living and working in the United States.

An elaborate plan of deception unfolded
Like Shaw, Belovich was wise to the scam from the beginning. First, “Daniel Anderson” claimed to be in Arizona, although the phone number given was in New York City. Second, a drive-by past the home in the Terwillegar Towne neighborhood suggested that the floor plan sent to Belovich didn’t match the house. The property was also listed for sale, arousing more suspicions. Belovich called the listing agent who told him the home, in fact, already had a fully finished basement.

An altered cheque part of a larger conspiracy to defraud
Not content to let the scammer get away with this, Belovich continued to play along. He wrote up a contract, and soon received a call originating in Calgary regarding a house inspection. Eventually a cheque for $42,817.31 arrived. Belovich was instructed to keep $15,000 as a deposit and to transfer the balance of $27,000 to an individual who would be purchasing furniture and finishings for the renovated basement.

This altered cheque for $42,817.31 was received with instructions to keep some as a deposit and to forward the balance to someone else (Belovich photo)

However, the cheque made out to Belovich’s company was issued by Super-Pufft Snacks, an Ontario-based manufacturer of potato chips, popcorn, beverages, fun food and fun food equipment, with an invoice notation date of March 29, 2017. Turns out the cheque had been originally issued for $3,178.13, and was one of several the company reported lost to Canada Post. When confronted over the phone about the cheque, the client hung up and was not heard from again.

No crime, therefore no police action
Since Belovich was never actually defrauded, he could not file a report to police. However, Edmonton Police spokesperson Scott Pattison told CBC News in an email, “Bad guys are creative, and are continually coming up with new ways to get your money,” Yet while the creativity of scammers is impressive, contractors are not often the victims. “The primary industry that we typically see this scam is actually in the wedding industry,” Lisanne Roy Beauchamp, a call-centre operations supervisor for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre told CBC. Real estate professionals agreed that it is unusual for vacant homes to be the subject of such frauds.

Belovich and Shaw’s experiences will hopefully alert contractors elsewhere to the dangers of scammers targeting their operations as a way to either defraud them or inadvertently involve them in a larger conspiracy.

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1 Comment » for Edmonton contractor foils a conspiracy to defraud
  1. Mike essiambre says:

    I get calls all the time like this need electrical 10 to 15 thousands worth of work but I can not close deal or can u do visa deposit on job for work then wend I get house we can do work I need some money to close deal they are all kinds of scammer out there I have see it all from the good then the bad then the ugly a word to all be carefully who u hire and do your home work asked a friend or try the b b b or check on internet it is that easy Mike doctor electric