The Langley Hospice Society recently dodged a scam, but it still cost them $500, and their residence doesn’t have a piano.
“It was a bit of a fiasco, to be honest,” said Shannon Todd Booth, the association’s executive director.
The Doug and Fran MacDonald Hospice Residence already had an upright piano, but when an email offered to donate a Yamaha grand, the staff took it seriously.
The donor, who said her name was Janice Lawson, communicated with the hospice via email and said the instrument belonged to her late husband. She wants to see it go to a good home and wants to give it to hospice.
She said she only wanted the hospice to pay for the moving costs.
At first, Todd Booth said the hospice wasn’t even sure they could take the piano, because it might be too big for the living room of the residence.
But they measured the space and decided it would fit, replacing the old upright. It will allow hospice care to provide music to their patients.
“They sent the pictures and they did the whole thing,” Todbeth said.
The hospice was told the piano belonged to a moving and storage company. The putative donor provided the email address of the moving company.
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When hospice workers contacted the company to inquire about moving costs, they found that the cost was a bit high.
The company estimates $860 for seven-day delivery, $1,150 for three-day delivery and $1,550 for next-day delivery. The moving company’s email also said they only accepted payment by electronic transfer or cash deposit at the bank — a note said PayPal was for friends and family only.
That’s when Todd Booth and the hospice staff decided to try another estimate.
But when they tried to determine where the piano was so it could be picked up by another company, they couldn’t. The original moving and warehousing company appears to be based in Montreal.
Then a Google search for “Janice Lawson” and “piano” came up with a warning that it was a scam.
Pianomart.com and other sites warn that “Janice Lawson” is the name used by scammers sending emails to schools or charities that may be interested in getting a “free” piano. Pianomart listed several email addresses linking to someone under the name “Janice Lawson.”
Hospice is not the first place of contact. If they had handed over the money, it would likely have disappeared and the piano would never appear again.
The moving company’s website looks professional, but the “Customer Reviews” section contains a list of seven people who have given the moving company rave reviews – all seven of them are listed as “CEOs of Acme Industries” and appear Several photos of “customers” were taken from stock photo sites.
There is no section of the website listing staff or executives. Office numbers on the website go to the general voicemail system. The company’s alleged address was the location of a real moving company in Quebec, but with a different name.
The Langley Hospice Society could have avoided this scam altogether unless they had paid a legitimate moving company $500 to remove the old upright pianos in anticipation of their new donation.
The scam almost worked because, like other charities, it was not uncommon for hospice organizations to receive such donations.
Looking back at the original email, she could now see that something was amiss. This made her a little suspicious.
“That’s the worst part, you see things differently,” she said.
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