Strange Matter’s eastside location hit for over $1,000 in cash fraud scheme

Scammer impersonated an LPD officer, claimed to be investigating fraudulent bills


WEDNESDAY, June 26 — When an employee at Strange Matter Coffee’s eastside Lansing location, 2010 E. Michigan Ave., picked up the phone around noon yesterday, they couldn’t have imagined the call would last for over two hours.

“We got a call from someone basically impersonating the police. They said that they were detectives investigating fraudulent bills,” store manager Gianna Taracks explained.

Using a strategy known as “spoofing,” in which the scammer uses technology to impersonate an existing phone number, the caller presented a fake name, title and badge number.

“They had us count all of our money, and we had two fraudulent bills,” Taracks said they found. “So, according to the police, it seems as if they may have come in and planted them.”

 Taracks said that she couldn’t say exactly how the money was stolen due to being an open case. 

However it was done,  it resulted in a total loss of $1,000 to the store and an individual employee, owner Cara Nader said.

 When the Strange Matter team suspected the caller’s investigation was fraudulent, they called the real Lansing Police Department, which opened a legitimate investigation. 

Nader described the ruse as “very elaborate bullshit.” 

“They spoofed it perfectly. They had background noises that were just like in the station and dispatch noises in the background. They also called the employee from my number to prove that I was with them and aware of what was going on. They didn’t obviously talk to me, but my number called their phone,” Nader said.

“Obviously, they also had a bunch of information that you can get from the internet just by like paying $5 to somebody. It’s not that hard to find people’s information on the internet,” Nader added.

Nader said she contacted her insurance company and cooperated with the Lansing Police Department investigation. The Strange Matter team intends to take additional precautions going forward.

“I instructed all of my staff that any time a police officer calls and gives their name, title, and badge number, they should call and verify that they are who they say they are and that there is an open investigation,” Nader said. “When we gave our statements to the officer regarding this, he’s like: ‘’That’s what you should do. If it really is us, we are not going to be mad if you want to call and verify.’"

Nader also said the police told her the title the spoofer gave was a “military title and not actually a police title.”

The officer asked how long the two fraudulent bills could have been in the drawer before the incident. While the suspicion is that the scammers had come into the store in person to plant the bills, nothing has been confirmed.

“We keep a set drawer amount, so, in theory, it’s kind of possible. And obviously, we don’t check the $1s, $5s and $10s. But it seems like this person knew there would be fraudulent bills in our drawer, and that helped further the scam,” Nader explained.

“Obviously, it could have been much worse. We don’t do a large number of cash transactions at our stores,” Nader added.

This morning, Nader said customers have been “very supportive.”

“We’ll sort it out, we’ll get by. It’s just really frustrating that somebody would do that to a small business,” Nader said. “I just want people to know about this so it doesn’t happen to other folks in the area.”

Strange Matter Coffee, scam, spoofing, fraudulent, money, cash, Cara Nader, Gianna Taracks


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