The Indonesian Caper

Jan 10, 2020

It was the fall of 2004, Pat and I were extremely busy with Wolverine, in fact we were just about to hire our first full time Staff person to take some of the pressure off. Pat asked me about completing an invoice for an expensive optic by credit card. I was too busy to pay much attention to the deal and told Pat to carry on, the sale went ahead, then another one and another one. Business was booming, a lot of top end optics, range finders, GPS, Binos and even digital cameras were flying off the shelves. Then the bomb shell hit.

It was 3 am and the phone went, I answered, a female voice at the other end said in a surprised voice  “Oh, you do exist! What is going on?” Eventually the plot unfolded, I was now wide awake. The voice on the phone belonged to Pamela; she lived in California and had just returned home from an extended vacation in the far east. As she was jet lagged, she decided to open her stack of mail which included a CC Statement, this showed numerous payments to Wolverine Supplies. She “Googled” us and was horrified to find we were a gun store - she didn’t like guns, she was into photography. I assured Pamela that we were genuine, and we would sort this out, I also knew that she could charge back everything. As Pat and I were by now both wide awake we went downstairs, made a cup of tea and started to work in the office.

It was far worse than we feared, the total was about $60,000.00, approximately a third had been shipped, another third was either in stock or on route to us, and the last third was all in back orders that had been placed with our suppliers. We immediately stopped shipping any CC orders until the purchaser had been confirmed. We tried to cancel all the back ordered items with our suppliers but a lot of these items were special order and could not be cancelled and some incurred a heavy restocking fee.

I called the CC companies, they were of no help to us as we were the merchant. They couldn’t really be bothered with us, they would only help the owner of the CC. There was no time limit on how far these charge backs could go.

I phoned the RCMP, they could do nothing for us as they could not counter International fraud. All the scammed goods had been shipped overseas. The vast majority to Indonesia, or at least in that area. Then I took the approach that these items would be useful to terrorists, still no interest from the RCMP. I tried getting a phone number for the FBI and CIA but could not even get to talk to a human voice.

Then I tried CSIS, I explained the situation, yes, we may be interested - we will get back to you.

In the meantime, the charge backs kept coming in, almost daily. Pat and I were searching for a pattern, something in common, a place, a name or an e-mail address. We found a suspect, why the nerve of him, he had e-mailed me again yesterday. Time to turn the tables, I replied that we were so busy that we were getting behind, after a few e-mail exchanges I suggested that he might like to work as our agent in Indonesia, I almost had him hooked and then all comms with him ceased.

CSIS called, “When would it be convenient to come and visit, as they had a proposal for us.” The sooner the better I replied”, and a date was agreed. A great little fellow turned up, very unassuming but extremely sharp. After questioning us at length he asked if I would make one last shipment so they could track it. I replied that as much as I would like to “Nail the bastards”, I couldn’t afford to lose any more. No worries was the reply, we will cover your costs.

The next “suspect order” was cleared by CSIS, so we processed it and then we waited. We tracked the shipment to its destination; I think it consisted of two or three top end optics. A few weeks later our friend at CSIS called, could he visit? Certainly, I replied.

Pat and I waited eagerly to find out what had taken place. We learnt nothing; our friend “knew nothing”. He told us this operation was out of his hands and when his contacts told them the job had been completed, they just grinned at him. Our friend told us that grin meant the operation had gone well. He then opened his leather briefcase and pulled out a wad of dollar bills. “What do I owe you?” he asked. He paid me the appropriate amount and I was asked to sign a receipt. It was the only time the Canadian Government paid me in “cash”.

The moral of this story is to always check your CC statement, as the vast amount of what was paid to us in this scam was (lucky for us) never claimed as a “Charge Back.”

Keep your powder dry,
Mr Wolverine

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