Conserve Your Money When Dealing With This Family

, , , | Legal | March 24, 2019

(Eighteen years ago, I got a new landline phone number. This number previously belonged to someone else and it had been unused for twelve months after they got a new number. r Most debts seem to have been made long after they changed phone numbers. Every time someone calls for them, I ask when this debt occurred and tell the person on the other end that I suspect they are giving out my number because they already know they’re not going to pay for the goods or services. Every single one of the companies calling me is helpful and I establish that my hunch is correct. They are only giving out my number when they aren’t going to pay. Not once has any family member or friend called for them. Fast forward some five years. My landline rings:)

Me: “Hello, [My Name] speaking.”

Caller: “Yes, hello. I’m [Caller] from [Bespoke Glazing and Conservatory Store]. I’m calling about the order you’ve placed. We still have a few questions.”

Me: “Are you calling for [Other Person]?”

Caller: “Yes, is he available?”

Me: “I don’t know; he doesn’t live here. But let me guess. He came in not too long ago and ordered something from you. He then proceeded to give this phone number as his?”

Caller: “Yes.”

Me: “Yeah… They do that only if they intend not to pay for the goods. They’ve been doing this for the last five years.”

Caller: “What? They’ve ordered a bespoke conservatory costing at least €20,000.”

Me: “Well, you have their address, right? Go there and tell them you’ve heard this. If I can give you one piece of advice, do not order that conservatory before they pay a lump sum up front. And even if they do that, be careful. I can give you a list of debt collection agencies who’ve been calling for them in the last few months.”

Caller: “Well… Hmm… That is really not what I wanted to hear. But thank you. I think you just saved us a lot of money.”

Me: “I’m sure I have.”

(We kept an eye out because we knew where they lived. That conservatory never got erected.)

Committing Fraud To The Letter

, , , , , | Right | February 8, 2019

(I am working in the collections department for an energy supplier when I get a call from a woman regarding a letter she says she received. She says she has a question about it. She gives me a reference number and I pull up the account.)

Me: “I’ve got the account up. May I ask your name?

(The customer gives me her name, and it is the same as on the account. I then ask her to confirm address and DOB, both of which match what is on the account.)

Me: “Thank you for confirming those details. What was your query?”

Caller: “Yes, what is this letter all about?”

Me: “There is a balance on the account. It needs to be paid. You owe [amount].”

Caller: “No, I don’t.”

Me: “I’m not seeing any payments since [date].”

Caller: “No, you don’t understand. This isn’t my account.”

Me: “Your name is on the account and you confirmed the address.”

Caller: “No, no. This letter isn’t for me. This is my friend’s account. My name is [Different Name].”

Me: “I’m sorry, madam, I can no longer discuss the account with you without the customer’s permission. Is the customer there?”

Caller: “You just broke the data protection law. You disclosed my friend’s details.”

Me: “Actually, madam, you committed fraud.”

Caller: “No, I didn’t. I never said I was the customer. You broke the law; now you’re going to lose your job. I’m going to report you.”

Me: “Actually, madam, when I asked what your name was, you told me it was [Customer]. When I asked what your address was, you said it was [Customer’s address], and when I asked you to confirm your date of birth, you told me it was [Customer’s DOB]. You pretended to be your friend, which is fraud.”

Caller: “No, I didn’t. If you heard that, that’s your fault. I’m going to report you!”

Me: “You are welcome to report this to the data commissioner. I’ll get you the details, if you like. We are obligated to report this incident, as well, and will send the recording of this call to prove what was said.”

Caller: “How dare you say that to me?! Get me your manager!”

(I got my manager, who took over the call. My manager promised to listen to the call and arranged to call the woman back once she had done so. Later that day, my manager came and spoke to me. She listened to the call and confirmed that the customer definitely committed fraud — she clearly said her name, address, and DOB were the customer’s. My manager gave me an anti-fraud form to fill in so it could be passed onto the police. During the call, the woman gave me her full name, and she gave my manager several phone numbers when they arranged the call back, one of which was a work number. My manager also got the woman’s address because the customer wanted me to write her a formal apology for accusing her of committing fraud. All these details went on the form we sent to the police.)

Fraud For Dinner, Prison For Dessert

, , | Legal | February 2, 2019

(A business guest who has stayed with us for around a week comes to check out. Even though he was here for business and his company had booked his room for him, he brought his wife, which is not a problem for us, but the company explicitly said they will only pay for one person. So, we split the bill into his stay and his food and beverage consumption and a separate bill for his wife’s consumptions, which he will have to pay himself.)

Guest: “All the food is split up.”

Me: “Yes, your company will only pay for your food, but you will have to pay for your wife.”

Guest: “Yes, but can’t you just wrote ‘Dinner’ and the full amount without specifying how many people ate?”

Me: “No, this is an automatically generated bill. When you go to the restaurant, they type in what you order and that’s how it appears on the final bill.”

Guest: “Can you not… change it? I can say it was very expensive, but that it was only me eating here.”

Me: “I’m afraid we can’t do that, sir.”

Guest: “Well, why not?”

Me: “Because modifying a bill is fraud and if your company finds out they will not do any business with us again.”

Guest: *grumbles and pays*

(Seriously though, your wife stays with you for free and you only pay for her food? Isn’t that enough?)

Taking Inventory: I’m Afraid I Can’t Let You Do That, Dave

, , , , , , | Legal | February 1, 2019

This story happened to a friend of mine. Let’s call him Dave. We like to think of it as the moment he went from small-time to big-shot.

Dave is a new systems administrator for this company but has been working in IT for close to 15 years at this point. The last admin retired with little warning, so Dave was hired with the understanding that he would be getting no training and would have to figure out the system more or less by himself. One of the earliest projects Dave is given is creating a proposal for the annual IT budget. He takes an inventory, crunches some numbers, and submits a budget of $495,000.

A few hours later, one of the VPs drops by and asks him to recalculate his budget. Dave gets an anxious vibe from the guy, so he doesn’t ask too many questions and goes back to the drawing board. Figuring there must be some financial issues he is unaware of, he tries to find places where he can save some money and skimp on costs, finally resubmitting a proposal for $460,000.

The next day, Dave is called into a meeting with the CEO, the head of accounting, and two senior VPs. They’re concerned about his budget and ask him to review it with them and explain the numbers. My friend obliges. He points out the cost of equipment currently in production, expansion based on the company’s estimates for growth, and the standard wear-and-tear replacement cycle for the servers, plus padding of ~15% for unforeseen costs. They ask why he was using that inventory list and not the one they provided, and he responds that he never received an inventory list and had to make this one from scratch. Apparently, someone had forgotten to give it to him.

The execs talk among themselves for a bit, then decide they want to double-check the inventory. Dave had previously called the server centers and satellite locations to get inventory counts, but now they decide to check each location personally. Over the course of two days, Dave ferries one of the VPs from location to location, checking every item on the list. He actually finds that several items have been depreciated due to age and failure, so his list is even shorter than he thought. After all this checking and making sure nothing needs replacing and a final bit of calculation, he submits a final budget closer to $380,000.

By now, the execs are mad. They tersely thank Dave, and he doesn’t hear from them all weekend. By this point, he is extremely nervous that he has done something wrong and he is going to lose his job, and picking up a job like this isn’t exactly easy. When he gets in on Monday, he’s called into the CEO’s office yet again.

It turns out the previous administrator had been putting in budgets in excess of $700,000 for the past four years, with the last before his retirement just scraping over $1,000,000. They show Dave the inventory sheets and math the old admin had submitted and they showed an artificially bloated system that didn’t exist — literally hundreds of servers that the company simply didn’t own. Turns out the guy was making the purchases, showing the receipts to accounting, then selling them to friends and family for a fraction of the price and pocketing the profit, which is how he was able to retire at 40, and why he insisted his inventory sheet be given to his replacement. He had effectively embezzled nearly two million dollars that they could prove, and an unknown amount that they could not.

Regardless, they got the court to freeze the guy’s funds, got a warrant for his arrest, and put him in prison where he belongs. They weren’t able to recover most of their money since he didn’t keep records of who he sold to, but the reduced IT budget at least helped them absorb the blow.

And that’s how one misplaced inventory sheet made Dave into a big-shot at his company.

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In Soviet Russia, Tax Frauds You!

, , | Legal | January 7, 2019

(I work in a hotel. A Russian guest in town for business purposes checks out, pays for his stay, and is handed his bill. He reads it carefully, practically staring at it.)

Coworker: “Is something wrong with the bill, sir? Did I misspell the name of your company?”

Guest: “No, not name.” *says something in Russian* “Breakfast!”

Coworker: “Oh, if you need a separate bill for the breakfast, that’s not a problem.”

Guest: “No! Tax!”

(The tax on the breakfast is actually higher than the tax on the hotel room itself, so we think that this might be confusing to him and that he probably thinks it’s too expensive.)

Coworker: “Sir, these are the tax rates in Germany. I’m afraid we cannot change that.”

(The guest still seems unhappy and mumbles something under his breath. Finally, I get what he was trying to say.)

Me: *to coworker* “Gosh, he doesn’t want to have the tax on the breakfast adjusted; he wants us to adjust the tax on the room and make it higher! That way, he’ll get more money back from his company than he actually paid here!”

Coworker: “Sir? Is that what you wanted us to do?”

Guest: “Yes! Yes! You can change for a new bill?”

Coworker: “No.”

Guest: “Why not change?”

Coworker: “Because that would be illegal. Have a nice day, sir!”

(He left rather disappointed.)

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