Scammers defraud PDX wedding bakers

Scammers defraud PDX wedding bakers


by Wayne Havrelly

Bio | Email | Follow: @HavrellyKGW

Posted on April 2, 2010 at 6:31 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 4 at 1:07 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Scammers are targeting small Portland-area businesses in the wedding industry.

A local bakery is the latest to get hit.  The Sweetness Bakery and Café in Southeast Portland just lost several thousand dollars to the complicated scam.  It all started with an e-mail from a buyer in Toronto.

“It's not a hugely unusual request,” said Kay Krueger who manages the bakery.  “I guess I let the flattery of somebody interested in my stuff that lived that far away take over.”

It was a very big order, a  $2,000 dollar wedding cake.   The buyer paid for everything with a Visa card complete with security code and expiration date.

“That code is what we depend on to let us know a person is legit,” said Krueger.

The bakery spent 60 hours making the cake.   At the last minute, the buyer said there was a shipping problem. They wanted more money wired to a new international shipper.

Krueger reluctantly wired the money.

Meanwhile, less than a mile away Peggy Lapoint noticed a massive bill on her Visa card from a bakery she'd never been too.

“I could never imagine spending that much money on baked goods -- though I'm sure they're really good,” said Lapoint.

Somehow thieves got their hands on Lapoint’s Visa info and used it to scam Sweetness Bakery.

“At first we're thinking it's about a wedding cake and someone is paying for their wedding with our card, then you realize it was never about the cake,” said Lapoint.

The elaborate cake eventually spoiled and ended up in the trash.

“That hurt,” said Kreuger.  “It makes me sad because it makes me feel suspicious of people and not trust them as much, which bothers me.”  

Visa reimbursed Lapoint for the credit card fraud, but the bakery still hasn't heard from Visa and will likely never get the cash back from the wire transfer.

Investigators with the Secret Service believe the scam is being operated out of Toronto, Canada and is targeting small businesses everywhere.