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P.E.I. restaurant owner catches fraudsters in their tracks

Dan Kutcher, owner of South Central Kitchen and Provisions, recently had an encounter with a fake customer hoping to scam the new business by submitting an online order.
Dan Kutcher, owner of South Central Kitchen and Provisions, recently had an encounter with a fake customer hoping to scam the new business by submitting an online order. - Millicent McKay

Dan Kutcher, owner of South Central Kitchen and Provisions had a recent run in with scammers through his small business

SUMMERSIDE – A local restauranteur is sharing his experience after a recent experience with small business scams.

Dan Kutcher opened his restaurant, South Central Kitchen and Provisions, last month which has seen customers come through the doors and make special orders through email. Recently he received an email from a supposed customer who wanted to order about 80 sandwiches for his grandmother’s birthday party.

“I’m not entirely unfamiliar with these kinds of email fraud,” he said.

Kutcher, a former lawyer has seen ghost emails come into his mailbox before.

“It can happen to any business. This time, I got an email asking for a big order for the birthday party. We asked them to give us a call, but they weren’t able to because they were in the States but would be back within a week.”

Kutcher didn’t want to immediately write the email off in case it was from a real customer, but as the interactions continued, it became clear everything wasn’t what it seemed.

“We continued with the back and forth and it gets to the point where we say we’ll do it on this day, but we need a deposit. They come back and say sure, and then ask to triple the order.”

Alarms and red flags raised immediately, said Kutcher.

In his next correspondence, Kutcher told the customer to send the payment information, which won’t be processed until someone comes into the restaurant.

“If it’s a grandmother’s birthday, in and around Summerside, somebody’s got to know about it and be able to come in.”

The customer told Kutcher that they wouldn’t be able to make it, but their carrier would come in for the order.

“We were given the credit card information and the contact for the carrier, which was a Toronto area code, so things weren’t making sense.”

But Kutcher continues the correspondence.

“I get the credit card information, the carrier information and then I ask what the grandmother’s name is, so we can put her name on the cake.”

Kutcher then tells the customer that there was a problem processing the card. They apologize and ask him to try it again and if the transaction works, to also charge the card for the carrier fee in order for Kutcher to pay the carrier when they come to pick up the food.

Kutcher believes the scam works when the vendor or retailer runs the credit card through, charges the amount and then the fake carrier comes in and says why don’t you just pay me. The vendor gives the money to the carrier, and then the customer cancels the initial transaction. Making it seem like money came in from the card for payment of the food and carrier, when really it leaves the vendor without the difference.

“It seemed like pretty clear fraud, so I tried to report the incident to the Canada Fraud Centre. You can phone them, or use a Canadian Government login, you can’t just simply say here is information about a potential fraud.”

He continued, “I decided to call Visa because I have the card number, the CVV, everything and Visa essentially says this isn’t our problem, we can’t do anything about it, but you can contact the issuing bank.”

Kutcher called the RBC and was directed to the fraud department.

“They were receptive. I gave them the emails, the card number, and they were able to stop usage to the card.”

It was frustrating said Kutcher.

“These scams are good enough, so I could see them working. Especially for new businesses when you’re already juggling so many things, I could see something like this falling through the cracks.

“You see commercials on TV all the time saying report the incident, but when you try, it takes hours.”

millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com

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