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A scammer attempting steal 1,700 euros from a photographer

The year 2016 has brought me a bumper crop of scamming attempts. From April to June I had three scammers after me: Victor Smith, who said he wanted me to provide horse riding lessons (!), Albert Spencer, who said he wanted to buy enlargements of my photographs, and most recently Anthony Martinex who said he wanted me to photograph a wedding in Cornwall.

Each of these con artists sent me checks for thousands of euros or pounds more than what I quoted for the services or products they requested, then asked me to send back the difference.

Please don’t let any scammers know about this web page! The objective here is to make these miscreants waste their time on people like me who haven’t been fooled for a second, distracting them from baiting others who might fall for their scam.

While I was waiting for Mr. Martinex’ check to arrive I received this message from “Michelle Dormanen” on June 20th 2016:


6/20/2016

From: "Bishop" <nice.lovely1200@gmail.com>

Subject: Event

Hello, how are you, This is strange to me and I really do not know how to go about it. I hope I am directing my email to the right person. I have an event coming up soon, do not know how you work, maybe hourly your charging rate, also what period you will be available if you are already booked for the year.. I do not know if you handle events and what area you cover. Also I do not know your charges and policy. Let me know what your basic information are as I really need make plans ahead of the event day.

I await you on this.

Thanks
Michelle Dormanen

She’s so vague about her event, hasn’t said where or when it will take place and didn’t say what she wants me to do at her event. This scammer is taking a novel approach in pretending to be female, unlike the half-dozen others I’ve corresponded with. I wrote back:


Hello Michelle,

Thanks for writing! I’m not sure if you have seen my web site though if you have you’ve seen that I am a photographer, and I imagine you would like me to photograph your event.

I am in the habit of requesting 100 euros for three to four hours of photography, 200 euros for six to seven hours, and 300 euros for up to ten hours. I live in Paris, so if your event will not happen here travel expenses will need to be factored in also.

Let me know what you think…

All the best,
David


6/21/2016

Dear David,

Thanks for your information. We will work with 10hrs. It has been my idea to plan ahead for my event.

I will need your full name and address, for me to contact you upon arrival and arrangement also to make payment deposit for the event.

Kindly include your phone contact too.

I await your details soonest.

Regards
Michelle Dormanen

At this stage I was 94% certain this is a scamming attempt: Ms. Dormanen still hasn’t said where or when her event will take place, she most likely doesn’t care because no such event will take place. She’s far more interested in my mailing address so she can send me a counterfeit check. Beyond that, she has given up on writing in a hazy “female” kind of way after her first message. I wrote back:


Hello Michelle,

For ten hours of work I request 300 euros, and if your event is not happening in Paris additional funds will be necessary for transport. You can easily find out how much that would be by searching Google, or I can do that for you.

Could you let me know when your event is happening? Also, could you let me know what kind of event it will be, wedding, conference, meeting, bar mitzvah, etc?

All the best,
David

A photographer in Germany wrote me saying she had received a similar e-mail, additionally containing an address:

Michelle Dormanen
5980 Oak St
Rockford MN 55373 USA

Then two more German photographers told me Michelle Dormanen had written them with about exactly the same text in her initial approach so I was 100% certain that she is a scammer.

Success!

7/8/2016

A counterfeit check written for 2,000 euros.

A check I received on July 8th 2016 for 2,000 euros, “issued” by the Birmingham branch of the Lloyds bank, “paying bank” the Crédit Agricole bank, dated July 4th 2016. So far this year I have received 19,700 euros and 29,500 pounds in counterfeit checks.

Unlike the envelope the previous check for 9,500 euros was sent in, it isn’t possible to determine from where in Germany the check was mailed.

The envelope which the check for 2,000 euros arrived in, mailed from Germany. As usual it has no return address and there was nothing else inside aside from the check. This envelope very closely resembles another one in which I received a check for 9,500€: it has the same German “100 Jahre Möhnetalsperre” commemorative stamp & dark blue “Priority / Prioritaire/ Luftspost” sticker, the address label looks the same, as do the orange bar codes along the bottom.

On July 8th 2016 I found an envelope in my mailbox with no return address, containing a check for 2,000€ and nothing else inside. I will now send a scan of this check to “the bank that issued” it, the Birmingham branch of the Lloyds bank, as well as the “paying bank”, le Crédit Agricole bank in Montrouge.

The same day I received the check I also found this message from Michelle Dormanen:


Dear David,

I am still hospitalize but I am sure payment has been forwarded to you.

Kindly confirm receive of the payment made to you.

Regards
Michelle

She hadn’t told me about her health problems, though one or two of the German photographers mentioned them. I wrote back:


Hello Michelle,

I found a check for 2,000 euros in my mailbox today, in an envelope with no return address on it, and nothing else inside the envelope, mailed from Germany.

I’m not certain it might have been you who sent the check because it is written for a sum far higher than what I quoted for ten hours of photography: 300 euros.

I’m attaching a scan of the check, please do let me know whether or not it was you who mailed me this check for 2,000 euros. I am sending my best wishes for your health!

All the best,
David

A few hours later she wrote back, saying:


Dear David,

The amount issued to you is EUR 2,000 which the difference will be sent to the Event Planner. My Accountant misunderstood me, thinking you are to handle both, not getting my instruction that payment is to be send to both of you and event planner separately. You will deposit it in your account and deduct the agreed charges then send the difference to the Event Planner with whom I have pending payment to complete booking reservation for the event.

I will reach the Event Planner to know the best means to receive the payment, and will provide you details of the Event Planner to make difference in the payment as soon as you made me know when the money is in your account.

Thanks for keeping me updated.

Regards,
Michelle

Almost three weeks had gone by without e-mails from Ms. Dormanen when I received that check for 2,000 euros, and during that time she still hadn’t said where or when her event would take place. That’s probably all the better for her because she haplessly sent such information to one of the German photographers. That photographer called the hotel where the event was supposed to be taking place, and there they said they had nothing scheduled. Giving her a hard time about such shoddy scamming, I wrote back:


Hello Michelle,

I’m happy to find out this is your check, thanks for clearing up the mystery! I’ll send the check to my bank Monday and it will likely clear within a week.

I’m still not clear on what sort of even you are planning, will it be a wedding, conference, meeting, bar mitzvah, etc?

Also, I need to know when your event is happening, and where. I can travel anywhere in Europe and beyond though the cost of train or airplane tickets will need to be added to my fee, as well as lodging expenses if the location is more than 300 kilometers away from Paris.

In the meantime, feel free to send along your financial coordinates so I’ll be ready to transfer the excess funds…

All the best,
David


7/9/2016

Dear David,

It is a conference.

I will get details of exact location to you as soon as I have it. The Event Planner is working on it.

Regards
Michelle


Hello Michelle,

That sounds fine, do let me know let me know the moment you have obtained the date and location of your conference…

All the best,
David

I decided to have some fun with Michelle Dormanen and let him know that Anthony Martinex claimed to have sent the check for 2,000 euros, and put the two of them in touch with each other so they can sort things out between themselves (I did the same with Mr. Martinex). Naturally I didn’t repeat the spelling mistake in Mr. Martinex’ name, so she wouldn’t find him by searching Google:


7/10/2016

Hello Michelle,

Early last June Anthony Martinez, whose e-mail address is martinezanthony110@gmail.com, wrote and asked me to photograph a wedding he is planning this fall in Cornwall.

Before I received your e-mail about the check you sent I asked Mr. Martinez about it. He wrote back today and said it was he who sent that check for 2,000 euros.

Could you check with Mr. Martinez and find out whether the 2,000 euros is intended to pay for photographing your conference, or the wedding Mr. Martinez is planning?

All the best,
David

Michelle Dormanen is one of the many people in this world (scammer or not) who doesn’t read; she wrote back:


7/10/2016

Dear David,

Where did you get the email from? Name could be similar and may not be same person. You wrote Mr. Martinez, why? Has he promised to send you cheque before me?

Let me know how you come across Mr. Martinez. Did you send him a picture of the cheque?

Regards

I truly doubt that Ms. Dormanen does not know Mr. Martinex because her check arrived in an envelope that looks exceedingly similar to the one Mr. Martinex’ check arrived in


Hello Michelle,

Anthony Martinez first wrote me on June 2nd, and the e-mail address I sent you is his. I wrote him about the check I received last Friday because Mr. Martinez said he was going to mail me one for photographing a wedding he is planning in Cornwall.

The check arrived in an envelope with no return address and nothing else inside, thus I had no idea who had sent it, and that’s why I asked Mr. Martinez about the check.

When inquiring about the check I indeed sent him a scan of the check, furthermore he claims that his client mailed me the check. Perhaps you could write Mr. Martinez to clear things up. Please do keep me posted…

All the best,
David

Ms. Dormanen asked me about the classic tell-tale sign of a scamming attempt, sending more than has been quoted for a product or service, then asking the recipient to send back the excess funds, a phenomenon known as the advance scam. On the other hand, that’s exactly what she wants me to do…


I do not need to write him. How much did you both agreed? You just go ahead deposit the check into your account in your bank. I will provide you with solution soonest on that. Did he request you send the difference to anyone?


Hello Michelle,

I quoted him 1,500 euros for two days of photography, plus travel expenses to Cornwall. I will send your check to my bank, Mr. Martinez indeed asked me to send the difference, 500 euros to him. Please do let me know what I should do next once the check clears in my bank account…

All the best,
David

Ms. Dormanen is attempting to appear to be a real person by asking me how I am and telling me about her own health. I’m intrigued by her mention of sending a copy of a “check that was issued to someone else”, that’s certainly something I’d put on this page:


7/12/2016

Dear David,

How are you today? I hope you are doing good. I am getting better here. I am still waiting to hear from you on the check you deposited into your account. You promise to let me know when the cash is available for you.

I have contacted my accountant and has promised to send me a copy of same check that was issued to someone else. Once I have this, I will show this to you as proof of my ownership of the same check you received.

You can tell Martinez to give you proof of ownership of the payment as I am doing.

Regards
Michelle


Hello Michelle,

I’m doing fine and I’m glad to hear you are doing better! I sent your check to my bank and it will probably clear next Monday. Receiving a copy of another one of your checks will indeed reassure me, and I’ll be sure to let you know the moment your funds have arrived in my account…

All the best,
David


7/13/2016

Dear David,

I am sorry, there was an unexpected incident that occurred which has led to the event been postponed . It has been rescheduled to hold in 3 weeks. I am sorry this information is getting to you late.

Also the Event Planner is yet to complete reservation due to the balance that is expected from you. I really do not know your policies towards this development. .

Please I await your prompt update, understanding and cooperation on this.

Regards
Michelle


Hello Michelle,

There’s no problem with your event being postponed because you still haven’t told me when it will occur, thus I have made no plans so far. If it turns out your conference is indeed cancelled it is only natural that I would send your money back.

I have already sent the check to my bank, I might be able to write and ask them not to deposit your check, though perhaps it might be simpler to let it go through, then refund you the 2,000 euros when the check clears. Let me know what you think…

All the best,
David

This message is a bit non sequitur, hard to understand. I suppose “she” wants me to think her conference will indeed happen, who knows why…


7/14/2016

29th of July.


Hello Michelle,

From your message I have the impression that your conference will happen on Friday the 29th of July. I am indeed free that day, please do let me know where the event will happen, and everything else I might need to know, financial or otherwise…

All the best,
David

On June 17th Ms. Dormanen sent me a photograph of a check written to another photographer. She said the photo is supposed to prove she wrote the check, though what it does prove is that she sends out counterfeit checks for thousands of euros. But I already knew that. She committed a considerable lapse in discretion for a scammer, letting me see the name of someone she sent a check to. I immediately sent M. Lupan an e-mail warning him about Ms. Dormanen, and he quickly wrote back:

Salut merci Beaucoup pour la informations!!!

C’est bien que j’ai pas mis à banque le chèque

Ciprian (Hello, and thanks so much for letting me know!!! Luckily I didn’t deposit that check. —Ciprian)


7/17/2016

A counterfeit check written for 2,500 euros.

A photo of a check Ms. Dormanen written to Ciprian Gheorghe Lupan, in the amount of 2,500€. It’s charming to see a human touch in this image: a real scammer’s thumb at the left of this photo. A quick search on Google tells me that he is a photographer in Paris.

Dear David,

It has been a few days I hear from you. How are you and your family? By now I am expecting you will notify me that you account has been credited so I can provide you the details for the difference.

As to the check which we discussed I am sending you a copy in this attachment. With this I am sure you will know I am the owner, do not send this email or check to martinez, you can simply ask him for proof of owner of the check.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. I am awaiting update so I can get the coordinates to you as soon as possible.

Regards
Miclle (!)

I do feel tempted to send the photo to Mr. Martinex though that would likely make him suspect that I’m on to him and would make him give up on me.


Hello Michelle,

Thanks for sending the photo of the check, this indeed reassures me that it was you who wrote and sent it. Rest assured, I will not send this photo to Mr. Martinez.

Your check has not cleared my account yet, that will probably occur in a few days and I’ll let you know when that happens.

In the meantime, feel free to send along your financial coordinates so I’ll be ready to transfer the excess funds…

All the best,
David

After not hearing from Ms. Dormanen for ten days I wrote her this message:


7/26/2016

Hello Michelle,

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that I saw that your check for 2,000 euros cleared my bank yesterday.

The bad news is that the Internal Revenue Service (the IRS) snapped up all of those funds as soon as they became available, because I have owed them thousands of dollars for many years.

This settles my debt with the IRS, but I’m sorry to say I won’t be able to pay you back this year, probably not next year, either.

Very truly yours,
David

Days later I haven’t had a response from her so it seems she has given up on me. This is probably because I missread the name “Ciprian Gheorghe Lupan” as printed on the check in the photo she sent me as “Cyprian Gheorghe Lupan”. I wrote her about this “mistake”, which likely led her to correctly believe that I’d searched him on Google and contacted M. Lupan. In the second half of July 2016 three French photographers wrote or called me saying they’d been contacted by Ms Dormanen.

Towards the end of September 2016 I received e-mails from at least three people asking me about Michelle Dormanen because she had contacted them asking for donations to her association in support of bulldogs. They claim she has changed her name to Michelle McKenna, though I can’t tell whether or or not this is the case. Perhaps not because yet another German photographer, and a photographer in Slovakia wrote me saying Michelle Dormanen had contacted them using the same e-mail address and scamming approach, asking if he could take pictures at a birthday party she is planning. To be continued…?

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