This time it was a mortgage case that caused one Toronto man to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, but police say that it can happen to anyone selling any type of product. And that while the scam might appear to be fairly obvious to some, police also say that they’ve seen even the most intelligent businessmen get “duped” into it. It’s the “Black Money Scam,” and the authorities want to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
Last week the Toronto Police went public with the latest case of the “Black Money Scam” that they’ve seen. In it, an unidentified Toronto man was selling a piece of commercial property for $450,000. In October he was contacted by five men who said that they wanted to purchase the property, and that they were going to use a large sum of money that they had in South Africa to pay for it.
Sound fishy already? It gets worse.
The men told the property owner that the money was currently dirty – literally – and that the man would have to wash off a thick dark coating on the money once it was delivered. Because of the extra labour involved, the men told the property owner that they would give him some more money to cover the costs of the cleaning.
This may sound too sketchy to believe on its own, but the men go a step farther than that to make it even more believable. They brought in a small vial filled with the “special, expensive chemical” that was needed to clean the money. They applied some of said “chemical” to one bill, wiped it clean, and a legitimate bill appeared underneath.
Unfortunately, what the property owner didn’t see was the slight of hand used by the men doing the demonstration, swapping a fake bill for one real one and leaving the rest of the fake bills for the property owner to find once the scammers were long gone.
One of the men, Herman Fankem, was arrested on April 9 in connection to the case; but the other four men are still at large.
Toronto Police want to stress to the public that finding yourself in this Black Money Scam might be easier than you think, and that no one should ever exchange money or goods with someone who gives them dirty money that “only needs a cleaning” in exchange.
The key, say the police, is that the fraudsters spend months, even years, gaining the victim’s trust. Once they’ve formed a relationship, the lie becomes that much more believable because it now comes from someone the victim trusts.
“They’re very clever, very devious,” says Detective Alan Spratt of the Financial Crimes Unit on Monday. “They gain the victim’s trust and then that’s what they violate to commit the scam. It seems as though once the victim has been brought into the scam, it’s very hard to get out.”