Wedding cake scammer strikes again

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on April 14, 2010 at 10:59 PM

SEATTLE - More businesses are coming forward saying they've been targeted by the "wedding cake scammer" as recently as today.

Kathleen Battiste runs a small bakery out of her Everett home, called Kat's Tasty Creations.

She got a phone call this afternoon from someone stirring up trouble. The caller was using TTY, a service used by the speech-impaired, to talk on the telephone.

"On the other line it was a lady with the TTY services saying that there was someone who wanted to place an order for a cake," said Battiste.

The caller, who called himself Steven Nicole, agreed to e-mail the order. But the order sounded all too familiar.

"It was for a five-tier wedding cake with pink roses, enough to feed 300 people and the inscription 'Happy Married Life,'" said Battiste.

It's the exact same order a Bellingham bakery received two weeks ago and took 45 hours to make - a wedding cake that no one ever picked up.

"The same name, the same photos, the same e-mail address," said Terri Zweber, co-owner of Our Kitchen Is Your Kitchen in Bellingham. Zweber googled "Steven Nicole" and "wedding cake scam" and found numerous documented cases from different bakeries all over the country.

"They're putting in big orders for fancy cakes to service 300 guests, and there's no wedding at all," said Kristin Alexander, spokeswoman for the Washington State Attorney General's Office.

Alexander says the scammer will sometimes use TTY to disguise their voice. Using a stolen or fraudulent credit card, he pays for the cake, plus $980 extra, and asks the baker to wire that as payment to a third party, who is supposedly the shipper who'll pick up the cake. But the scammer, Steven Nicole, whoever he is, pockets the money.

"The red flag, and it's the same red flag for every story, is that you are asked to wire money. Once you do that, it is gone, almost impossible to get back," said Alexander, who says the thieves are sometimes from out of the country and cover up their tracks well.

When Battiste told the customer to use Paypal on her Web site to pay for the cake, he refused.

"He was insistent that he didn't want to run those cards himself, he wanted me to do it," said Battiste. "So that was one of my alarms."

Instead of the sweet scent of cake, Battiste smelled trouble and didn't fulfill the order.

The Attorney General's Office says other bakeries should do the same and never wire money to someone they don't know.

Click here for more information on these scams.

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