Restaurants target of scam artists


At least two Island restaurants were approached by scam artists last weekend, giving the owners hope of a early season boost in sales, which turned into a big disappointment after the scam was revealed. The attempts to defraud the restaurants were remarkably similar.

The scam artists were familiar with the restaurant menus; they called through an operator who handles calls for the deaf, and then asked that a large extra payment be sent to a shipper.

James Shepard, owner of Faith’s Seafood Shack in Aquinnah, got a request to cater a wedding with sashimi for 150 people. He organized the menu, began to line up suppliers, and sent back a price quote. The scam artist gave him a credit card number to bill for the food, but asked that he overcharge the credit card a significant amount. When Mr. Shephard received the payment, he was supposed to take the over billed amount out of his account and send it to a shipper. Mr Shephard recognized the scam.

“I was fortunate,” Mr. Shephard said. “Over the course of three days, it probably took about four to five hours to organize it all. You don’t think about scams like that coming from a restaurant and food.”

Cybele Sprague at Zapotec in Oak Bluffs got the same kind of inquiry last week. The scam artist placed a $3,500 order for tacos and burritos.

“I was so excited,” Ms. Sprague said. “I was like, ‘Oh good, word’s getting around, and here’s a wedding.'”

She called in extra help, and rolled 36 burritos before getting strange requests to charge the order to different people with different credit cards.

“There that went,” Ms. Sprague said. She sold the burritos the next day for half price, but was still out the cost of the labor and possibly the extra ingredients she ordered.

“It was one of the creepiest, creepiest things I’ve ever experienced,” Ms. Sprague said.