A heartwarming tale of how a courier company saved an elderly woman from a scam artist:
There will be some of that today, but first comes an attaboy for Nick Kirkou, owner of Crestwood-based Ontime Express courier service.
On Wednesday afternoon, Kirkou’s company was hired to deliver three sales contracts to a south St. Louis County woman. Pretty routine stuff, until Kirkou took a closer look.
The contracts would allow an Arizona company to charge $15,000 to the South County woman’s credit card. In exchange, the woman would get what the contracts described as a “mini laptop and wireless mouse” and 15,000 telemarketing and e-mail “blasting” leads.
Kirkou didn’t think it was a very good deal. Even with a mini laptop, whatever that is. Still, Kirkou figured, it wasn’t his place to get involved.
Then he called the woman. She seemed elderly, and an unlikely e-mail marketer.
Kirkou asked the woman, a 90-year-old widow, if she agreed to buy the sales leads. She said no. Kirkou said he called the Arizona outfit, and he couldn’t get straight answers.
You know what I ask myself?
Why was the courier reading the contents of what it was supposed to deliver?
This is even worse for my innate sense of paranoia than those heartwarming tales of recycling facilities returning checks to their proper owners, which makes me wonder how close of attention they’re paying to other bits of recycled mail like credit card statements or credit card offers or what have you.
How come the journalists never clear that mystery up for us?
UPDATE: I have changed some wording in this story to center attention on me and my paranoia and not on the other minor characters in my internal psychodrama.
UPDATE 2: Nick Kirkou via email explains the story in greater detail:
The article failed to tell the whole story of how it came about. The Arizona company contacted our office. He asked one of my dispatchers if he could fax over some documents to be delivered. My office employee said we could do that. After he faxed the info over to us, he called back and told my office employee that he needed us to get signatures on several spots of the documents. My driver picked up the documents and started to head out to deliver them. The guy called back and started to go over the documents over the phone and kept telling my employee that if any of the signatures were missed it would make his document “weaker”. He said if the person seemed reluctant to kind of push them along as if a sense of urgency was going on. Long story short, my employee came to me and said he didn’t feel right about the delivery. When I called Arizona company back I can’t begin to tell you how shady the guy sounded. I told him we were not going to do the delivery. He asked me why and I told him we didn’t want any part of what he was doing and that I would call the police. He went as far as to brag about how often he “closes” these deals. He was getting this lady to sign a document that gave him access to $15000 on her credit card. He had her committed to doing so by saying that he worked for a government agency and that she would be helping them out and making money at the same time. By signing the documents, it stated that if she changed her mind for any reason, she would have to fight it in arbitration in an Arizona court, in his county. My father is elderly and all I could think of is how this guy was laughing at how he pulled this scam off several times towards the elderly. He was pushy on the phone. He made it a point to tell me that if we didn’t want to do it there were other courier services that would. We would never read any documents that are sent to us to deliver. In this case he was trying to involve my dispatcher and driver in his scam. I called the police to ask what can be done. They told that they could only get involved after the fact. The police department suggested I call the woman up and tell her not to sign any documents. Now one of the things the guy from Arizona wanted us to do was to verify that the credit card number he had matches her card numbers and to have her sign next to it. At this point I called the woman who was expecting the delivery and told her we were not going to do the delivery. She asked why and I told her what was going on. She didn’t think the nice gentleman over the phone would be trying to take advantage of her. He was so nice to her, blah blah blah. Finally I called the credit card company. After 2 hours on the phone, there fraud department got involved and contacted her and explained the whole thing to her. I literally spent 4 hours dealing with this. Now, I know you are thinking “It was none of our business”. Maybe to some people it wasn’t. One, it just wasn’t right. Two, this could have been my mother, father, grandfather, etc. I constantly stress to my office about doing the right thing. That it isn’t about the money but it is about the quality of what we do. When the article was written a number of people had your opinion as to why were we looking at something that didn’t belong to us. The moment the Arizona company started going over the contract with my office, they were now involving my company. I want you to know Brian that for all fairness, I still don’t regret how we handled it. I still feel that my staff, myself and my driver did the best job we could do. This woman wasn’t someone I knew but she could just as well been your mother, aunt or grandmother. The only reason I contacted you was because due to the fact that a potential customer just read your blog on us when they searched my name and company out. Sorry this email is long. I think STLTODAY was trying to warn others about the scams that are pulled on the elderly.
All my experience with couriers has been a point-to-point in-town rapid delivery thing, where they’d wander in, pick up some pencils or inks from the art supply store where I worked, and delivered them to ad agencies in Clayton. As such, I didn’t natively know the range of services couriers can provide for their clients.
It’s interesting to learn more about the industry, anyway, and to learn that it’s not like they were steaming open envelopes.