Sometimes known as a Nigerian scam, in the cake world it’s often referred to as the “Happy Marriage Life” scam, referring to a message that the scammers sometimes want written on the wedding cake. These scams target not only cake and bakery businesses, but anyone who sells anything online. I have heard of the same type of scam with ballroom gowns, cake decorating lessons, and even cars!
The core of these scams is almost always the same: The buyer contacts you by email, or by relay operator on the TTY phone service for the deaf. The buyer offers to pay you (either by credit card or cashier’s check) substantially more than you are charging for your product, usually by at least $500. They ask you to pay their “courier” the other $500 in cash when the courier picks up the merchandise. The credit card or cashier’s check ALWAYS turns out to be fraudulent, and you are stuck with the chargeback of the full amount of the purchase, bank fees, plus the cost of the merchandise that you sold. The scammer walks away with your $500 cash (or whatever amount) and your cake, and moves on to the next victim.
Telltale signs to be on the lookout for:
- Orders placed through the TTY Relay Service. See more TTY Relay Service
- Emails with strange spelling, grammar, or syntax.
- Outlandish requests for very large orders, especially those taking place in a very short time frame, usually within 2 weeks.
- ANY type of involvement with a “courier”, “shipper” or “refrigerated truck”.
- Orders that sound too good to be true. When is the last time you had a real bride who wanted to pay you $500 for cake delivery?
- Someone who doesn’t bat an eye at the cost, no matter how much.
Here is a media article about a real bakery that got taken by this scam: Bellingham bakery falls victim
Here is an actual scam leter:
I will like you to bake me a chocolate or a strawberry cake of 5 tier that can serve approximately 250 guest or more, and I want the cake to be decorated with pink roses and the cake should be covered in fondant or in butter cream, and let there be an inscription be writing on one as (HAPPY MARRIAGE LIFE) and i want you to pack them in different boxes after ready for pick up. And I want you to have the cake ready for pick-up on 29th of August 2008, 11 o clock A.M. So let me know if you can fill in the date for me?? . Reply me back and let me know if you can fill in the date for me.?? then i can forward all the details and the picture sample of what i will like you to bake for me.
Thanks and God bless.
If you made the mistake of writing back to them with a quote, you would then receive something like this:
Thanks for the quotation, i want the cake to be bake with gumpast, handmade, I just wanna use the moment to let you know that i will be sending down a private shipping agent to pickup the cakes from your location to my wedding reception. they will come with refrigerated Van, so i will be given you my credit card details to process for the sum of $1,862.50 (cake $1262.50 + $600.00 shipping fees) So let me know if you are ready to proceed, kindly provide me your address for the pickup so i can give it to the shipping co. Let me know so i can send you the credit card details in the next email asap.
Attached is a picture of what i want the cake to be look like, kinly get back to me as soon as possible. Thanks once again.
God Bless you.
Although it’s tempting to mess with them, the best thing to do is just ignore the email. Don’t reply, this lets them know they’ve got a good email address.
The scam for cake decorating lessons is roughly the same – someone is coming to the U.S. with their whole family, and they want you give them cake decorating lessons for 2 days! They want to work with their local agent to book a hotel room, so they give you their credit card number and ask you to pay the local agent some amount in cash.
Don’t ever accept a credit card or check transaction then refund cash to anyone. Stay smart and trust your instincts, they’re usually right.