Scams and Fraud In The Wine Business — Be Watchful
No one likes to admit they’ve been taken in by someone attempting to scam them. In reality, it’s a rare occurrence. Still, it’s embarrassing. But because it does happen from time to time, even in the wine business, it’s important to be on guard against it.
Today, most folks are aware of computer-related scams. The IRS has filed a judgment against you and all you have to do is send someone $4,530 via PayPal and you won’t be arrested by the local sheriff. Or, someone has your passwords and access to your computer, has found evidence you visited some adult website and lets you know via email they will forget all about it if only you send them $3,200.
Most scams like this are public knowledge and easy to verify as scams.
The scams that are much more difficult to get to the bottom of are those that are undertaken by a real person you are working with; a person who appears to have the knowledge and contacts and ideas that represent them well and will help you and your business. These are the scams that end up being really hurtful because you developed an affinity for the person scamming you and now you have not only been scammed by them but you feel like shit.
I recently went through something like this with a client. Together they and I bought into the proposal being offered by a person with solid knowledge of media, copywriting, branding, etc. We worked with the person with every intention of moving through the project to completion.
Then something weird went down. They were hard to contact. Their phones are blocked. Well, that led us to do something we should have done a long time ago: investigate the person much more fully and far beyond their ability to talk the talk.
Now, I’m not claiming that the person my client and I worked with, who has the same name and MO described in the above link, is a con artist. I would never make that kind of claim without proof. However, it appears that the person we were working with happened to have the same name and same MO as the person discussed in the link above. It also happens that another winery in CA whom we contacted described being conned and scammed by someone with the same name as the person we were working and the same name as the person referenced in the above link.
It could be…Coincidence. I would never want to accuse someone of being something they are not. Even if they are acting strangely. Even if their name, B. Stock, is the same as that used by someone else who is accused of committing fraud. Even if their “One Minute Documentary” project was the vehicle for a scam of others in the wine business. No, I would never want to accuse anyone of anything like this despite all the coincidences.
What I do know is this:
1. If you don’t know the person you are considering working with, get references.
2. If you can’t get any references, don’t work with them.
3. If you come across odd coincidences of the sort described above, you might not be experiencing a coincidence.
4. It’s a really good idea to alert as many folks as possible in your industry and region of the coincidence so that they can avoid having to contemplate the coincidence themselves.
5. If you think it’s all more than a coincidence. It might be a good idea to call the local law enforcement as well as federal law enforcement and tell them your story and everything you know about the coincidences.
THAT’S WHAT I WOULD DO!!