This Scam Didn't Fly (but the Drones Sure Did)

by Suresh Dakshina 0

The customer, without any hint of irony, said he wanted to move a load of horse manure. He said he had a horse farm, and for each of his 50 horses there was a trash can for manure. That was too much for him and his wife to handle alone. That’s why he was calling a drone manufacturer.

Could the manufacturer build three custom drones for him? He’d use them to collect the horse droppings, put them in the trash cans, and then move each can to the pickup location each week for the garbage truck. Oh, and the customer also wanted the drones to be able to put the cans back in their places once the trash had been picked up.

The drone company was up for the challenge. They built the three drones, each costing about $12,000.

Unfortunately, the sales rep who had carefully written down all the specs over the phone was not so careful about preventing fraud. He didn’t ask for any credit card validation. He didn’t pay attention to the fact that the billing address was in California, while the shipping address was in North Carolina.

Sure enough, 30 days later the manufacturer received a chargeback for the full $36,000. But because the company didn’t have any processes in place for dealing with disputes, the staff didn’t even realize that they had received a chargeback until they’d missed the deadline to fight it.
That’s when the company contacted Chargeback Gurus. They asked us what they could do to get back their $36,000. We looked into it and found yet another problem. Their sales agreement didn’t state that the company would pursue collections if the customer did not pay. Without such a legally binding document, the seller had no chance of recovering a penny.

But we were able to help them do the next best thing. If they couldn’t get the money, maybe they could recover the drones? The tiny aircraft were computer controlled, and the manufacturer knew how to remotely reprogram them to override the customer’s instructions. Could they simply tell the drones to fly to another location where the company could retrieve them? They could.

So the drones came to life, soared into the sky and were flown to a retrieval point, where they were picked up and returned to their maker. The scammers were left to deal with their own manure.

Since then we’ve worked with the manufacturer to put good security processes in place. If someone tries this scam again, it will never get off the ground.

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