Is this e-mail a scam??

June 11, 2011 at 01:12 AM ·

The writer had my correct e-mail address, but didn't mention her source or name the city I'm in. She said her boy was coming to "my city", and asked (twice) about the fee I would charge for two one-hour lessons per week. Anybody come across this sort of thing? I'm not replying; it just feels hinky. Sue  

Replies (35)

June 11, 2011 at 02:30 AM ·

We have gotten those at the office where I work.  I can't say for sure that it's a scam but you are right to be suspicious for the reasons you mentioned.

June 11, 2011 at 02:50 AM ·

Google your name and email address, and you might be surprised to see what you find...  Also, if you are curious, google her name and her email address, and see if you can find anything about this person... Keep in mind though that the sender's name and email address can be fake.

Does the letter address you by your name? If so, and since the topic is pretty specific, it's most likely from a real person, not a bot.  If not, then go ahead and ignore the letter.  Of course, even if the letter is from a real person, it can still be a scam, and you have every right to not reply.  If you decide to reply though, you can ask more questions instead of giving her the answer.

Here is a fraud warning for music teachers:

June 11, 2011 at 03:04 AM · I've gotten emails that sound similar and they were scam. The ones I got were pretty unrealistic/unprofessional sounding which was what clued me in....sounds like you are sensing the same from this?

June 11, 2011 at 03:21 AM ·

Other people have posted similar letters on other bulletin boards, and they were scams.  It's probably a scam! 

June 11, 2011 at 03:25 AM ·

 This is absolutely a scam. I've gotten these with some regularity. Don't reply, at all, and block or report the email address ASAP.


June 11, 2011 at 07:04 AM ·

Agreed, those emails come by the dozens to me...I ignore all of them.

I'm not interested in short-term summer students anyhow!

June 11, 2011 at 07:42 AM ·

This is what fell into my box a few days ago


I am Laura WOODS, I want you to know that i got your contact e-mail while searching through your location for a private music teacher and i will like to know if my daughter can join your private music class. My daughter is coming over to your country for holiday,and at the same time i like her to get private training with you. Her name is Rebecca, she is 16 years old, first language (English), best hobby(reading). I hope you will accept her under your tutelage?. So I will really appreciate it if you could be a part time teacher for her during her stay in your area, she will be coming for 1 hour a day, 2 days in a week for 8 weeks period. So, kindly let me know your lesson charges per hour in order for me to arrange for the payment before she travels down to your country. I would also like to know if there is any Text Book you will recommend for her as a beginner so that she will be reading privately at home stay after the lesson during her stay.
Please Advise back on;
# Your charges per 1 hour lesson a day, twice a week for 8 weeks?
# The Day and time you will be available to teach her During the week?
# Tuition address?
# Musical education and background
# Level of experience
# Personality
# Studio Atmosphere
I will be looking forward to read from you soonest.
Best Regards.

First time when I got something like that (a few years ago) I even wrote an answer, and got a response, so it is not a bot, at least. But nobody came, of course.

I've got impression that somebody is collecting info about how much music lessons cost all over the world )

June 11, 2011 at 07:55 AM ·

I've had the same letter - but for dance lessons (and I don't teach).  As abvove, they look like information gathering letters or they are amassing specific lists to sell to a vendor - what for I don't know; music?  teaching manuals?  Who knows.  You could reply but omit any specific in formation and ask something technical....

June 11, 2011 at 09:55 AM ·

I've had one email like that. The person insisted on knowing the fee for the whole summer. Later "she" emailed me that she posted a cheque with a certain, quite big amount of money, more than I asked for. She wanted me to cash it in the bank and give the excess of money to someone else...

Never got to see the cheque though and neither did I see her son (David) ("she" put the name of her own son between brackets, haha)


June 11, 2011 at 12:18 PM ·

I received the same e-mail.  I ignored it .....too many red flags.

June 11, 2011 at 12:25 PM ·

June 11, 2011 at 12:38 PM ·

It's absolutely a scam! I've got a number of such letters over the past several years or so - and just got this one the other day:


        I'm Mrs Debbie Mann from Paris,France.during my search for a Music instrument lesson teacher that would always take my son ( Chris ) and I found you..Your advert looks great and it is very okay to me since you specialize in the area i am seeking for him... My Son would be coming to US (your city) Before the end of this month for a period of time and with his friend for 2 Months.he is just a  beginner and he is 16 years old, i want you to help me teach lesson during his stay. So, kindly let me know your charges cost per week's ,in order for me to arrange for his payment before he travels down to your side. I have also made preparation for his personal equipment he will be using privately at home after the lesson during his stay.

Please Advise back on;

(1). your charges per 1 hour twice a week for 2 Months?

(2).The Day and time you will be available to teach him During the week?

(3).Tuition address?

I will be looking forward to read from you  soonest.

Best Regards,

Mrs Debbie Mann

It has all the earmarks that the Suzuki notice warned about. Just one example: "the area that you specialize in" Huh? Notice, no mention of the word, "violin". This a wide net they are casting to try to catch piano teachers, flute - anybody. This issue came up here a few years back, as I recall, but it's important and - like airline carry-on issues - bears periodic repetition for our protection. I don't remember the exact technique, but basically they want our bank account # to supposedly wire the money in advance. But really they want to tap into our account and drain it. In the past I've answered that I only accept cash per lesson in USD - and I never heard from them again. Once I actually said "I'm so impressed by your story that I've decided to teach your child for FREE over the summer!" Again, I never heard from them again, because there IS no child on their end! Now I just ignore them.

June 11, 2011 at 12:46 PM ·

Which kinda begs the question: if they had your bank account number how would they get cash out?  I mean anyone you give a check to has your account number (and name and address) but I don't think they can 'drain' your bank.  Whats the next step>

June 11, 2011 at 01:35 PM ·

Raphael, your reply clinches it if the others didn't. Same "parent"! That also prompts me to wonder if the person is phishing here at since you I & aren't in the same region or ISP server. Laurie, are you following this thread? Sue  

June 11, 2011 at 02:56 PM ·

Sue, I doubt that the person gained your email address through The parent's name just happens to be a popular name used by these con artists. Here is one example, and "she" was not seeking music lessons...

Elise, I doubt that they want your bank account numbers. They would just send a bad check with an amount that exceeds what the teacher asks for, or claim that they have done so,  for whatever reason, and ask the teacher to wire the extra money, minus any fees, to a bank account, and for whatever reason - urgently... When you cash a check, the bank makes the funds available to you immediately, but it takes weeks or months to clear a foreign check, and you are responsible for paying the money back if the check bounces...

A v.commie fell for it:

June 11, 2011 at 03:17 PM ·

I got exactly the same email as Raphael, just other names. The "mother" was also from Paris, the son (David), was also coming to London (your  city) etc...


June 11, 2011 at 08:42 PM ·

Yes, I think that's it - they send "too much", and you send back the difference, or something to that effect. Fortunately, it never got that far with me, as I was suspicious from the first such letter I got.

June 11, 2011 at 11:50 PM ·

 I received an email just like what you describe. I googled the name of the person who had sent it along with the word "Scam" and it came up on a music teacher's forum as a confirmed scam. I wouldn't trust it if I were you. You could ask for some specifics if you feel comfortable doing so but don't give out any personal information at all.

June 12, 2011 at 02:14 AM ·

Well, if not email addresses, then definitely usernames have been phished!

My account here had been closed for something like a year. The username was never used anywhere and not even on my computer. It was phished and I got an email addressed to my registered email, with my username, and it was not official.

Whether the fishing came directly from hacking the vcommie server, or through google caches, or through a cache file on my computer, or something, we'll never know. Robert didn't find anything and nothing has happened since.

Weird stuff happens. Every machine is vulnerable to phishing.

Holy cow, how did I miss that J.S.W. got scammed! Dayum!   Well, that proves to you why these Nigerians keep at it. It works! (Even though it is obvious).

Most people are not computer savvy. Most people trust people. Don't do it. There's a sucker born every minute and he's you.


June 12, 2011 at 06:04 AM ·

 Hi We were receiving many of these emails about a year ago.  Our manager is pretty sure its a money scam.  Their aim is basically money laundering.  Perhaps just say that when they come for their first consultation lesson you can discuss methods of payment, when we wrote that we did not hear from them again

June 12, 2011 at 07:35 PM ·

Here is how it works


June 12, 2011 at 09:06 PM ·

This over payment by cheque, and then asking for a refund is applied in many ways and not only by email. A friend of mine who does wedding receptions was approached for a rather large booking. The deposit my friend asked for was grossly overpaid due to an alleged admin mistake. She phoned the bank and it confirmed the deposit. The next day as she was about to transfer the overpayment balance, the bank phoned and told her the cheque was not honoured. 

She never heard again from the well behaved, smartly dressed 'gentleman' and his address and ID were false.

June 12, 2011 at 09:12 PM ·

I wish more people would do something similar to these scammers:

June 13, 2011 at 01:05 AM ·

We have always kept e-mail addresses of members of well-hidden, for precisely this reason. We have kept them hidden from Day 1. Just to assure you, only e-mails that say "A message" are coming through, and when you get one of those, it will say the address of the member who sent it. If another member is sending you spam, or a scam, or a commercial solicitation, e-mail me the entire message and I will gladly ban that member for abusing the privileges of this site.

Again, we don't publish e-mail addresses, we don't sell them, we don't even give them to your friends when they occasionally ask.

The music teacher scam has been around a good long time. The Suzuki Association published everyone's e-mail addresses on the Internet; I think this has been the primary source of e-mail addresses for these scammers. Google your own e-mail address to see where it appears...

August 5, 2011 at 03:40 AM ·

 More on e-mail scams: I received a note from Marian Merritt, an internet safety advocate, who said that scams like this can be reported to the federal government at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, . She also said that you should not correspond with the scammer.

She wrote a blog on how this particular scam works, and here is the blog:


August 5, 2011 at 06:24 AM ·

I don't teach, but I have read a bit about social engineering; even if you cannot come up with a good theory on a scam, don't answer, and don't give information. Don't answer multiple times, unless you get specific and concrete information (One good choice; always ask for a phone number).

The person or team at the other end can be gathering a bit of data to combine with other bits of data, and trying to figure which bits fit together for further interest. If you appear to be successful, it could be targeting more detail for identity theft, or using you as a reference to get closer access to your aquaintances (or previous teachers/students)
They could also be trying to identify key components of your life, and how you communicate; are you a candidate for a bit of a chat, where information could be gathered?

Short version; don't assume you are smarter than them. If you can't think of a reason, but suspect it, trust your suspicions over your deductive ability.

August 5, 2011 at 05:55 PM ·

 It's a scam. Had at lest a half dozen of those requests, just ignored them.

August 5, 2011 at 08:35 PM ·

There's always something a little "off" about these.  For example, with the music lessons, they're asking for two hour-long lessons a week.  This implies a very serious student, but nothing else in the email backs that up.  I had one at work from someone who wanted me to ship them 10 cases of 30" x 36" picture framing glass, which would weigh about 500 lbs.  I'm in New Mexico, they're in Baltimore.  Right.  Supposedly the scam there had something to do with the freight.  We've also had a couple where the initial contact was through the relay system set up for the deaf.  My hunch there is that it makes the call impossible to trace.

August 5, 2011 at 09:04 PM ·

Bill's experience with his username and email address being phished is a little unnerving...  I'm not saying this is what happened, but I just verified that if I edit my profile, everything on that page, including my address, phone number, email address, username, and password, is sent across the network as cleartext. If you visit from an unsecured network, such as at a coffee shop or an airport (and plenty of people leave their Wi-Fi networks wide open), a bad guy can use a sniffer to acquire these information.  The same is true for username and password every time you login...  This is not uncommon for a website of this scale - for example, the Suzuki Association website has the same flaw. Many people use the same username and password for all the websites they visit (not a good idea!), and password sniffers are widely available, which makes bad guys' jobs a lot easier. This is definitely a security and privacy risk.  I urge Laurie and Robert to implement security measure for the registration, registration update, login, and private message pages. 

As a good practice in general, one should refrain from visiting a website that requires authentication from a public computer or public network (and make sure your own wireless network is secure), unless you connect via a VPN, or are certain that it uses a secured connection (You will usually see a lock icon on your browser if it does) or sensitive data are encrypted.

August 5, 2011 at 11:06 PM ·

I've learnt a good bit about scams in the specialized world of music from this thread.  In particular, I second the posters who have recommended asking for a telephone number from the scammer and stating that cash-per-lesson payments will be required.  Another thing worth remembering is: if you get a scam attempt by a cold-call on the telephone, tell the speaker that you will call back later and then dial the number for retrieving the originating number of the call.  It may well be a blocked number.  Teachers are vulnerable here because they often need to have their home tel. numbers in the public phone directory.  One point arises from Joyce's last post:  it is no doubt true that some people unwisely 'multi-use'  the same username and password.  This is a problem situation.  One should not have an all-purpose username & password.  Moreover, one should not write a username and password down.  On the other hand, the feats involved in having to remember a load of usernames & passwords may strike at least those of us who are pushing 60 or over as distinctly herculean.  It's a hard world. 

August 6, 2011 at 08:15 AM ·

This is the video referred to in the article recommended above:


It shows what happens when scammers meet someone smarter than them...

August 7, 2011 at 03:49 PM ·

FYI, the main way that scammers, spammers and phishers are getting email addresses these days is via virus and trojan infections of PCs. If you've ever sent an email to or been sent an email from someone whose computer gets infected, the spammer who controls the infecting agent likely will be able to collect your email address via the infected computer's address book.

The only way to protect an email address from being found these days is to not use it to send or receive email. Which kinda defeats the purpose of having an email address.

So if you're using a special email address for, it can be found if you ever use the private message function to send a message to a member who has been or gets infected.

That's why having good spam and phishing filters on your email account or program is important. Security through obscurity doesn't work anymore.

Also, I've changed the registration page to clarify that if you don't wish identifying information to be displayed on the site, you don't have to submit it. (You will have to submit your email and date of birth, but we do not publish those anyway.)

Otherwise, I don't see the point in encrypting information that people are submitting to the site in order to have it posted publicly on the site. Do use safe computing when you are online, though. Use different passwords for each site you visit. Don't log in over public networks to sites that include or access your personal financial information, including credit card numbers. If you don't want something published on this or any other site, don't submit it on an unsecured connection. 

In short, if you want to keep something private, keep it to yourself.

August 7, 2011 at 05:00 PM ·

Robert, thanks for your quick action!  I like that no longer requires members to submit their personal info unless they want them published. The registration form now works as you described , but I just tried editing my profile to delete my address and phone number, and got an error saying that I must submit my street address and phone number...

Bill's post states that the leaked information is his username along with his email address - the former is not part of a private message received by the member, so that rules out other member's infected computer being the culprit...

August 7, 2011 at 05:22 PM ·

Exactly the same thing happened with me as with Joyce when I tried to delete my street address, city, and telephone number.
Btw, I received an unrelated phone scam yesterday – someone purporting to be from Microsoft told me my computer appeared to have a virus, and would I turn it on so that it could be checked out. (It was already on and the real Microsoft can tell that without having to contact me in any way). Despite appearances I'm not always quite as innocent as I seem so I replied,  "Computer? What computer? I think you've got the wrong number, sir", and put the phone down. I wasn't telling a lie; I take the view that if I'm not looking at the computer I cannot be absolutely certain that it exists (I think that's Level II Solipsism).

August 7, 2011 at 06:20 PM ·

A little clarification is useful here.


Your login username is public: it is your blog address. What convinced me that a phish happened is that the scam email I received had tied that username to the registered email account--something that could only happen on my computer, or the server. I cannot imagine how it would be directly linked on a third party-say a person I had sent a private email message to--with the idea being that a trojan scambot had infected another vcom member. Of course I may have been infected with a trojan. I cannot rule that out. I didn't find one. And I use a high grade hookus. And I have a firewall on my modem. But it still could have happened.

What most people do not realize is that *every* computer in existence that is connected to a DNS server is attacked repeatedly every hour. Usually every minute. If you set up a server, connect it to a gateway, and leave a port open, you will find that server completely hacked within minutes. There are literally thousands of porno scum-bags eating junk food, living in squalid flats in the former SSRs using automated scripts to search and find open ports .Then they go live, turn down the audio on their porno and get to work reading copying the control files on the target server, adding new instructions to those files, giving them direct login access, and then overwriting the files with these infected files. When the IT gut comes along and finds an open port and simply shuts it, the server remains compromised. This happens hundreds of times a day. 

No, there are no "back alleys" on the internet. Every computer is as obvious and near as every other...

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