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.
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.