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Frank Gray

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Some people fall hook, line and sinker for those kinds of scams.

Money in mailbox is too good to be true

It’s the time of year when some people look forward to money in the mail.

In the case of one reader, though, she got more money than she’d ever dreamed of. Too bad it was all in the form of counterfeit checks.

In a variation on one of the many scams that come and go, the woman, who identified herself only as Joanne, said she was trying to sell a vanity on Craigslist for $225.

She quickly got an email response from one person who wanted to buy it.

The woman suggested the customer pay for the furniture through PayPal, but that was rejected. She then asked whether she could negotiate a deal over the phone, but the customer rejected that. He claimed he was hearing-impaired and could only use email.

Finally, the woman just ignored future messages.

But the money came anyway, altogether three checks for $1,900 each, a bit of an overpayment for a $225 piece of furniture. The checks, though, all signed by someone named Leah Argana Solo, were all fake, so she turned one over to postal inspectors.

Then the woman started getting more emails from the supposed customer. Writing in broken English, he asked why she “no send furniture after he send money,” or something like that. The furniture, the email said, was for his bride.

Then someone else jumped into the fray, claiming to be a person in the military who routinely buys furniture online all over the country and has it shipped. It was a plausible scenario, but it involved sending oversized checks.

Joanne got a check from him for $2,285 for her $225 piece of furniture. The check was supposed to cover the cost of the furniture and shipping costs, and Joanne was supposed to keep $50 for her trouble. Then she was supposed to wire the buyer his change, about $2,000.

Joanne, of course, didn’t fall for the scam, which sounds pretty transparent. But the scams do work occasionally. The woman has a friend whose son fell for it, getting scammed out of nearly $3,000 in an Internet sale for an item that only cost $100 or so.

So regard Joanne’s message as a cheerful holiday gift. Beware of money in the mail.

Christmas tunes

Just a reminder, if you’re into Christmas music, especially obscure Christmas music, Rob Martinez will be hosting three special shows this year on WBOI-FM 89.1.

The first will be from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday, and two others are from 8 to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

It’s an annual thing for Martinez, who collects Christmas songs and has thousands of tunes, some by people who shouldn’t be singing Christmas songs.

This year’s shows will feature a song that possibly has never been broadcast before anywhere.

The song is “St. Nick Visits the White House,” a comedy song recorded by comedian Vaughn Meader, who did impersonations of President John Kennedy.

The St. Nick tune never got radio play because it was released just before Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

The records, except for perhaps two or three rare copies, were quickly recalled and destroyed.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.