Scammed! (Part 3)

In 2012, “06880” profiled Larry Perlstein. The longtime Westporter wanted to make a difference, in an uncertain economy.

The next year, with continued difficulty finding a job, he formed a consulting practice. In 2014 he added teaching duties at Pace University.

Life stabilized. But in February 2017 his wife Jacquie Marumoto — just 49 — suffered a stroke. When she returned home after 6 months in the hospital, Larry became her full-time caregiver, and parent to their 10-year-old daughter. He took on small paid and pro bono projects.

Larry Perlstein and his wife Jacquie Marumoto.

Last August, he received an email from a firm like those with whom he’d done focus groups and market research. The offer was simple: Help Western Union evaluate their operations at 2 nearby locations.

Perlstein would receive instructions and a check by mail. He’d take out his fee, send a Moneygram to 2 people, then complete a survey on his experience.

Perlstein is well educated, and tech savvy. He knows about financial scams and cybercrime.

But this request was well executed. The instructions were professional. He texted with the contacts offering the work.

Still, he was uneasy when he got the first package, with a $2700 check. He told a Citibank teller the check might bounce. She suggested calling customer service.

A representative told him the deposit had cleared. Perlstein completed the tasks. He was pleased: He figured he made $300, for an hour’s work.

Four days later, he got a letter from Citibank. The check had been returned as “Fictitious.” He was out $2,700.

The Post Road West branch manager told him that endorsing a check releases the bank from any liability.

Perlstein reported the scam to the FTC, FBI and state government. An attorney said that recovering the funds from the bank would be futile.

Undeterred, he sued Citibank in small claims court. The case is scheduled for June 29. Perlstein will argue that the bank had a responsibility — if not a legal liability — to protect its customer’s interests. They betrayed that trust by not advising him of the vagaries of check deposits — even when told twice of concerns about the check’s validity.

He hopes that telling this story will raise awareness of the scam. After writing about it on Facebook, he heard several similar tales. All but one person had been too embarrassed to tell anyone of their loss.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is,” Perlstein notes.

“Don’t rely on any institution to protect your interests. Educate yourself. And if you fall prey, don’t beat yourself up. Scammers are sophisticated. They take advantage of any vulnerability.” You can visit the FTC website for more scam information.

Perlstein suffered another blow earlier this month: His 87-year-old father died suddenly.

These days, Perlstein is focusing on his family. And — at a time when he needs it — he thanks everyone who supported a GoFundMe campaign covering his wife’s medical and rehabilitation costs.

5 responses to “Scammed! (Part 3)

  1. Seth Goltzer

    Unofortunately , an old Sxam. A family member got burned 4 years ago and guess who had to help our…love to find these people and have a meaningful interaction with a baseball bat!
    Good luck.

  2. A few years ago, Frank Abagnale gave a two hour presentation at Y&R, where I worked. It was all about his early career in fraud ( of “Catch Me I You Can” fame) It was a fascinating and funny two hours. He is now a successful consultant to the feds on counterfeiting etc. His number one warning was about checks. His advice was get rid of your checkbook and use your credit cards for everything. Why? Because you haven’t actually paid for anything until you approve the charges on your bill. If someone forges a check and keeps the amount under 5k, they know they will NEVER be procecuted and banks will not take responsibility. He went on to explain all the myriad ways they use to procure, copy, change and forge peoples checks. It’s a huge area of criminal activity, I think he said the largest. What I can’t understand about this story is how the bank declared that the check was good, until it wasn’t. That should have made them liable.
    A friend of mine had her purse stolen once and notified everyone right away. Her bank account turned up drained a day later and she called the bank to ask WTF? They told her that she had called back to say she found her purse.
    That took audacity on the part of the thieves. Some of these people are very slick. In this case, the bank made good but don’t count on it.

  3. Susan Holden

    Ok!

    Susan Rahm Holden Rutenberg, The Smart Brokers 641 Lexington, 22nd Fl. New York, NY 10028 Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Realtor, ABR NYC, NY Cell: 203-209-2223 Email: susanrholden@gmail.com

    >

  4. a shame but this type of scam has been going on for many years dating back to at least the 1990s. common sense would tell you something is amiss.

  5. Well, I lost my court case Perlstein v Citibank — which is no surprise. I can send you the ruling if you’re interested. It’s a good read. The important fact to take away is that the word “Cleared” is meaningless from a legal perspective. If you’re ever dealing with an uncertain check, you have to wait until the money is transferred to the bank, and your bank is under no obligation to tell you when that is. Or better yet, do not use checks — only use credit cards or electronic payments!!

    I’m done with this story and with Citibank. I’m closing my account on Monday.