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The ‘customer’, who signs themselves ‘Smith’ and whose first language clearly is not English, first emailed Mr Wheeler last month, saying that he wanted to buy a wedding present for his daughter.

Before he had even chosen a gift, however, he made a point of saying that he would pay through “cashier check”.

A further email listed a number of items ‘Smith’ wished to buy, asked for a bill and added that the goods would be collected from the gallery by a representative.

When Mr Wheeler advised ‘Smith’ that payment would have to clear into their account before they released any goods, ‘Smith’ reduced the order, adding that payment would now be made by certified cheque.

But alarm bells rang when ‘Smith’ added that the cheque sent would be for a sum roughly four times what was owed. This is a classic con, and ‘Smith’ followed all the usual twists that it involves.

Firstly, he explained that the overpayment was to cover other costs, such as shipping. He then instructed Mr Wheeler to cash the cheque, deduct the shipping and any other costs from the cash, and then pay the shipping company and other bills himself. He was then to return the balance to a clearing address, namely “the Head Office of the company that handles the shipment via the nearest Western Union agent in your area”.

Mr Wheeler, by now highly suspicious, refused to continue with the transaction. Had he followed ‘Smith’s’ instructions, however, the payments for all the transactions – including those to the shipper – and any cheques paid out would have been in his name, with no paper trail for ‘Smith’.

This is a classic con in which nothing can be traced back to the criminal, who ends up with the laundered money and the goods. It also means that the innocent dealer can suddenly find themselves on the wrong end of a money laundering charge.

The full contact details given to Mr Wheeler by ‘Smith’ were mailto:smithcco@yahoo.com