Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Warning: Piano Lessons Scam Emails Are Circulating

This morning I got the following email in my inbox:


My name is chalse james ,i want my son Laurel to come to your place
for the piano lesson so i i want you to tell me the time you teach and
i will want her to stay in your place ,because am not in the state. i
am a bussiness man so her mother die last 2 years to this time so am
the one taking crae of her so let me know the total cost for the
accomodation and the lesson fees.So for me to know what will be the
next thing to do so am using this opportunity to tell you that i am
beging to help me to take care of her .So looking forward to read from
you very soon.

Best Regards
Chlase James .

Has anyone else received this email recently? It looked like the recipient and cc addresses (not quoted) on the email were teachers in the Ontario area--my address must have been on the bcc list. This appears to be a variation of the classic piano lessons scam letter and after a bit of digging I found some documentation here and here of how it operates.

Below is a quick rundown on how the fraud possibly works:

1. The perpetrator initially sends an email to the piano teacher asking for lessons for their son/daughter, a pressing family situation, a need to trust in God, etc., and a request to take care of their son/daughter and offer them a large number of regular lessons. The initial letter commonly has a fair number of mistakes in it, as you can see from the quoted text above.

2. If the recipient sends contact info of their own studio or their institution, the perpetrator will send a cheque far in excess of what the teacher or institution charges, and then ask for the excess portion of the payment back. Guess what? The initial cheque send by the perpetrator will bounce, and the victim unlucky enough to send a cheque for the excess amount will have been successfully hosed.

My understanding is that if you never respond to the initial email, the fraud attempt will go no farther. As soon as the perpetrator has a home or institutional address, then they can send a bogus cheque to it, and begin to extort money. Fortunately, the level of grammar and spelling is low enough to probably generate alarm bells in anyone who reads the message. However, teachers that reply to all requests as a matter of course may be putting themselves at risk by responding.

Has anyone else had any experiences with this type of email?


  1. Damn...busted!!!
    ; )

  2. Actually, I had a very similar experience.

    A few years ago I posted in a music website to sell a guitar. I received an email like that one. The potential buyer wrote he would send me a cheque but the sum would be larger as it would come directly from someone who owed him money. Could I take my cut and return the rest to the potential buyer. Yeah right. I actually reported the email to RCMP Scams and Fraud dept. They were pretty friendly and asked me to forward everything without deleting the weird characters that sometimes accompany emails. Means something to them I guess...

    I took it as a sign and I kept the guitar. I've come to really love it and now have no idea what I was thinking wanting to sell it! : )

  3. Yes, I had a couple of similar emails a year or so ago. I didn't respond because they just seemed too weird. Thanks for explaining how the scam worked. I was intrigued to know how they were planning to make any money.

  4. yeah I received few months back.

  5. I received this email as well. I've received a few of these over the past few years. The first one was innocent enough that I did bite but I didn't give them much information, which prolonged the conversation. As time went on, the perpetrator exhibited inconsistencies (eventually referring to dance lessons! Apparently, he didn't care what subject his kids were learning.). He finally explained the overpayment plan at which time I cut off communication and forwarded the conversation to the authorities. I spot these pretty quickly now.

  6. One thing that these scum are doing is visiting the online teacher directories and spamming all members with this. They've targeted teachers in my area this way.

  7. Anonymous7:14 PM

    mine seemed to be coming from the "UK." After the 2nd email from 1 individual (who in their right mind sends their SON - always a son - to Canada for only 3 months but the adults stay in the homeland???) i quickly received another email EERILY similar though from a different inquirer.

    i called the police immediately after i read this one, and they said if i do end up getting a cheque or money order or what not, to call them and they will send an officer to pick it up and they will handle it from there....i've just emailed phonebusters ( and left them a pretty detailed email about what i received...though i don't exactly know if they accept email scams, the police recommended i contact them anyways.

    i wonder if a kid does show up to any of these things??? HAHA

  8. Anonymous3:11 PM

    I've gotten two of these emails over a period of 6 months. The first one was a guy in the UK with his son coming over for 3 months. He wanted to pay me in advance for 3 months of lessons twice a week. The grammatical errors were just...weird. I just got another one a couple of days ago - a woman from Paris whose son was coming over for 3 months, wanting lessons twice a week, with similar weird English. Both emails were so odd that I didn't give them very much information and they didn't respond. I'm listed in a music teacher directory, and I'm guessing that's where they got my email address from.

  9. Anonymous10:36 PM

    I've received 6-8 of the ones with child coming for x months - all identical except for names (poor grammar and all, literally fill-in-the-blank form letter) . I responded the first time, declining without any personal info. I ignored 2nd, sent 3rd one my collection up to that point, saying they could become friends in prison (tee hee). Now I just paste them into my collection and delete.

    They must get my email from teachers' assoc directory since I'm listed nowhere else.

  10. Anonymous4:31 AM

    Not only that, teachers do leave their cellphone numbers together with their ads too... these scammers have called me last week... I did not return the call. Now i am getting several calls from people who i know aren't native in the are where i am living in.

    Any tips on how to tell who is genuine... or not?

  11. I recently had a problem with multi-level marketers responding to a listing I have in the ORMTA directory. The best thing to do if you belong to a registered music teachers' association is to tell someone on the executive, so they can issue an alert to their members, effectively blacklisting the person and organization.

  12. Anonymous5:12 PM

    Here's one I received today from someone identifying themselves as "John Naoki."


    I'm John, During my search for a lesson teacher that would help in taking my son (Kenneth) During is stay in your location. I found your advert and it is very okay to me since you specialize in the area I'm seeking for him, My son would be coming to your city before the end of this month for a period of time with his friend, I'll like to know if you can help in taking him for the lesson? just to keep him busy and refresh. Kenneth is 11 years old, So kindly let me know your charges per hour/lesson in order for me to arrange for his payment before he travels down to for the lessons to commence.

    He will be staying there for 2 weeks and Please Reply back on:

    (1). Your charges per 2 hours (3 times a week for 2 Weeks):starting from 29th April until 12th May 2016

    (2) Total Cost For 6 class/12 hours lessons in 2 Weeks

    (3). The Day and time you will be available to teach him During the week:

    Well am very happy that i see you as my son tutor and about your years of Experience there is no problem about the lessons, My son will be coming with his caregiver.
    So there is no problem for the lesson to commence by next week, my son caregiver will be bringing him to your location for the lessons and you can teach him anywhere around you including the Library or your home if that is okay by you so i will like you to teach my son the best of you when he get to the city for the lessons. I will like you to email me with your schedule for the lessons,I will like you to email me with the name on the check and Full mailing address where the check will be mailed to and including your Home and Cell phone number for my attorney to issue out a check to your before leaving the the state, by this week, I will be awaiting to read from you soon with your name and address.

    Best Wishes.

  13. Something like this just happened to me. A man emailed me wanting his four children to take 12 weeks of voice lessons. He wanted to pay for the lessons up front. Ok, I thought. I may be able to find a four hour slot with a voice teacher. So, I worked on and did. But, the emails started getting stranger. Red flags went up real fast. He repeated himself often. I also stated we did not accept credit cards. The latest email said the following:

    "Hello ,

    I will like you to add an additional $3,500 to the total cost which you
    will charge on my credit card as payment for the driver that will be
    bringing my kids for their appointments and when payment clears into
    your account you will deduct the cash and send to the driver via cash
    deposit as his charges for handling the transport of my kids to and
    from your office for their appointments.I would have preferred to sort
    his payment by myself but he does not accept credit card and I am
    presently in the hospital scheduled for surgery for my hearing
    impaired condition.I am willing to pay a tip of $150 for your time if
    you could assist with this favor. Kindly get back with the grand total
    cost if this is okay by you.

    Kind Regards,"

    To which I responded: Hello James,

    I'm sorry, but we do not accept credit cards.

    I'm afraid we will only accept payment for the lessons via cash or check and can not pay the driver.

    No tips are accepted or necessary. I am sorry for your predicament.

    Can you please arrange payment to your children's driver through someone else or yourself as I can't accomodate you? Also, before the children start, I'd like to know who will be driving them as it's common practice that we know who will be dropping off and picking up children.

    I am sorry that you are undergoing surgery. Perhaps you can provide me with your name, street address, town and children's names for the registration forms via email. I imagine that would be easier for you. I can fill out the form and send them back with the kids to you for your records.

    Please get back to me at your convenience.



    Did not hear back...big surprise! What a shame there are people out there who do things like this.

    1. Thanks for the reply, Ellen. However, I think it's a bad idea to even respond to these scammers. If you say that you accept cheques, it only takes a small bit of research for the perpetrator to find the address of your teaching studio and courier you the fake cheque so that the scam can start in earnest.