Contractor’s email hacked, customer unknowingly sends deposit to crook

Better Call Behnken

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Adine Kaufman was excited to replace her windows and add hurricane sliders, but she ended up sending her down payment to a crook.

When Kaufman received an email that appeared to be from her contractor, offering to lower the price by $1,800, she jumped at the chance. She later discovered the email wasn’t from her contractor. It appears to be from a crook who had hacked into her contractor’s email and instructed her to send her down payment through Zelle.

“I trusted it,” Kaufman said. “I made a big mistake.”

She realized what happened when her contractor, Rob Loyer of Gulf Coast Windows and Doors, showed up to take measurements. He told her he wasn’t going to be able to do the job she wanted.

“I asked him, ‘how do I go about getting my money back for the deposit I sent you?’ He said, ‘I did not ask you for any money. I did not receive any money,'” Kaufman recalled. “So at that point, I knew I had been scammed.”

Loyer tells Investigator Shannon Behnken that Kauffman was a repeat customer and he was “heartbroken” to hear what happened. He says he contacted his email provider and learned that his email had been compromised. He had one other client, he says, reach about this issue. That client had received a phone call from someone pretending to be him and asking for money through Zelle.

“It bothers me a lot because we take great pride in keeping our customers satisfied, and you know, we all work hard for our money and for someone to scam like that and take somebody’s money, it just breaks my heart, my installers, it hit all of us,” Loyer said.

What happened to Loyer and Kaufman is a form of email compromise fraud. Better Call Behnken has reported on those in other business transactions, such as mortgage brokers and real estate agents, discovering their emails were compromised. In some of those cases, home buyers were misled to wire their down payments to crooks.

In this case, Kaufman has filed a police report with the Sarasota Police Department and the FBI, but it is typically difficult to recover money after it has been transferred to a crook. Kaufman now realizes that the email address that came from the fake contractor is slightly different than the real contractor’s email.

Loyer tells Better Call Behnken that his email provider assures him his account is more secure now and he wants to warn all business owners and consumers to be on the lookout for this type of scam. Don’t send money without calling first to confirm any instructions you receive through email.

Loyer also says he’s decided to give Kauffman half of the money she lost because he feels bad for her.

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