Suite 10 - The Psychic Mail Scam  

I have worked some crap jobs in my life.

One of them was at a place called MBE.

MBE was an australian version of the US frachise Mail Boxes Etc. The idea was that it was a business support centre that offered dtp and printing services, finishing, laminating and the like. I was hired to look after the computer work.

One of the aspects of the business was private mail box rental. In Australia, Australia Post has the monopoly on mail delivey services, but there is nothing stopping anyone subletting their postal address to others. We had mailboxes, key entry at the front and staff access for sorting at the rear. This isn't the first time that I've worked with boxes: when I left uni I did a stint at an Australia Post (licensed) post office. The hell of that I will retell another day.

Looking through the Foxtel guide I noticed an advertisment for a Psychic service. One of my quirks is that, having worked with mail, I like to see where the mail goes on advertisements like these. This was to an address that sounded harmless: it started Suite 120 and it rang mental bells.

I'm not going to use specifics from herein but I will explain to you the beauty of the Pyschic mail-scam.

The way that MBE sublets its mailing address is by naming its mailboxes Suites. Let's say I worked at the MBE at 43 Terry Road, Dudleyville 8333 and you hired box 10, your mailing address would be Suite 10 43 Terry Road Dudleyville 8333. A selling feature we would use is that the address sounds more like a place of business rather than just a hole in the wall.

I think it is for this reason that MBE stores and other businesses that promote this service should find someway of protecting themselves from what could happen. More importantly they must find a way to protect their staff from the insults and threats that they will receive when the less gullable begin to question. And believe me, they begin to question.

The business was approached via fax or email from an international company wanting to establish a presence in Australia. We'll call then Solace. They ask for a large mail box becuase they will be sending promotional material out enmasse and expect a largre response. The company signs the paperwork via fax and the deal is made. They even pay extra, so their account is in credit. MBE holds the key, awaiting instructions. Solace get the adress, Suite 10 43 Terry Road Dudleyville, 8333.

The next contact is from the Solace. MBE acted as a Fed-Ex collection point. They ask that once the mail to their box begins to flow, could we send it via Fed-Ex to an address they specify, using their account. This gave MBE a $5 fed-Ex collection royalty so it seemed a sound business move.

The instructions that Solace faxed to us, were for the first time on company letterhead - a mail forwarding house in Canada. The address for the mail-parecels was in Switzerland.

You'd think by now we would have clicked, but no. It all seemed possible.

About two months later the mail began to trickle, then flow then poor in. Perhpas 50, perhaps 100 articles a day addressed to Solace. The mail that same to Solace were all addressed Suite 101 43 Terry Road Dudleyville, 8333. Assuming there had been a misprint in their promotional mailing, I emailed my contact the news and was told that would be corrected for their next mailing.

Maybe a month passed. We'd started been forwarding the boxes on a weekly basis as per instructions when the second wave arrived. This time they would arrive in pre-printed envelopes SOLACE Suite 100 43 Terry Road Dudleyville, 8333. Two misprints was not a coincidence, but I still had not worked out that I was, for all intents and puposes, aiding a mail scam until the first walk-in came in.

Walk-ins became a fairly regular occurence after that.

I may have hated my job but I was good at it. I have no interest in other peoples mail and I have never thought to open a mass mail to see what it is. What I have found out about Solace I have found out from walk-ins.

A walk-in is a person that goes to the address on the envelopeand hassles the person that they see there. There are two sides of the picture, the irate person who discovers that the address is nothing but a sham front: and the worker that has to explain that, yes, that 300mmx100mm hole in the wall is Solace and no you have no idea why they haven't:
a) received their personal reading or;
b) received their crystal/talisman/gift/booklet or;
c) had their personal reading come true or;
d) any clue about any of the things in their personal reading

or worse

e) got a thing, yet their cheque has been cashed.

Because Solace is our client, the business has a confidentialit agreement. It was after one particularly nasty walk-in (that threatened violence to staff and family) that the owner personally called Solace (previous communiation had all been email or fax).

Solace turned out to be a mail forwarding house that was working on behalf of the client in Switzerland. When we'd relayed the amount of grief that we had receieved because of their mail box we were given the authority to give out a phone number for the walk-ins to call directly.

It wasn't much. Try explaining to someone gullible enough to mail a cheque to a Psychic that to follow it up they need to call the USA at their expense to listen to someone else's bullshit.

While it wasn't the only reason I hated working there, it sure added to the problem. I detest people leeching upon the gullable. I don't like the fact that a scam can be promoted as entertainment yet its sole purpose is to attack those that can't see through the scam.

But this is how it works.


Author: Grant McDonald

090808 NW