“Hi, My name is Kyle Bata from Sand ton, South Africa.  I would like to know if you can take my colleague and I in private lessons during our vacation in Gilbert, AZ?  How much do you charge?  Regards, Kyle.”

This message was in my e-mail inbox.  I e-mailed back with a price for classes and private lessons for three months for two people.

He was agreeable to this, “We see this vacation as an opportunity to learn martial art.  It would be paid for by our company as our vacation bonus.  We can get the details to our boss and the form of payment would be a certified check.  We would appreciate a quick response.”

I was still skeptical, yet excited about the idea of visitors from South Africa joining us for a few months.  Kyle seemed very polite from his e-mails. I sent him our dojo address.

A check arrived expediently.  It was from a Jack’s Tool supply in Florida with a note saying it was from “Kyle Bata Boss.”  I Googled Jack’s and found a website for a company.  A couple of e-mails from Kyle requested that I deposit the check right away, as soon as I got it.  I deposited the check and spoke to my bank manager about the situation.  He said to wait until it cleared.  A couple days later I checked our account online and it looked like the check had cleared, saying “counter deposit.”

Then I got this e-mail from Kyle, “Hi, I received a sad news from my colleagues that his mother died.  He will have to stay for the funeral.  He will no longer be able to come for the vacation.  I will be the only person coming down to Arizona.  Since he will not be coming, he needs his training fees sent to him in Belgium.  Please I need you to make a partial withdrawal of $700, use $80 as the western union charges and have it sent to my colleague through Western Union Money Transfer.  I will balance up my training fees when I get there with you. Here is the information to send my colleagues refunds to … Once you have send to him, please provide me with the Western Union details.”

Not that I would wire money to a stranger anyway, but thanks to Craigslist warnings this was a huge red flag.  I talked to our bank manager again.  He called Jack’s and talked to the man named on the check, who said someone had been writing bad checks out of his account.  The bank manager said they get many cases like this every month, and just filed our information for the records.  He said that in our case (as most) law enforcement would not help.

I wrote back to Kyle immediately:  “Kyle, Our most important lessons come from the Dojo Kun.  I know you will benefit yourself and others if you take these ones to heart: Strive for a good moral character; Keep an honest and sincere way; and Restrain my physical abilities through spiritual attainment.  Physical abilities don’t mean just punching someone, but they also include what you say, what you write and anything you do.

“I am confident that you can find your prosperity using your gifts, talents and passions to help others.  These words are from my heart, without any pretenses or lies, to your heart.  Whether you choose to open your heart to them is up to you.

“That lesson is free.  I still wish you blessings Kyle, or whoever you are.  Take care, Jenifer Tull-Gauger Shihan”

I never heard from Kyle again.  That free lesson was a while back.  Since then, scammer techniques have evolved.  So has the general public’s awareness of the scams that are out there.  There are some people who, for a hobby, lead the scammers on, until they can try to get them caught by the authorities.  I find it funny that these people repeat and reinforce the poor grammar of the scammers, so they don’t improve their English.  Then they are easier to spot by the way they write e-mails, etc.  Our lesson here is that if a situation seems suspicious, we need to be extra careful and protect ourselves and our finances.

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