Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.
Me, played by Me
Long Haired Guy, played by Stephen Dorff
Short guy, played by Shaquille O Neal
Bank teller, played by Jessica Alba
Yes, it’s true, I , PDXKaraokeGuy, Mr. Frugal himself, world renowned writer (well, maybe later), fell victim to the white van speaker scam.
For those unfamiliar with the scam, here’s a rundown of how it happened.
Act 1, Scene One (note, there is only one act)
It's the early 2000s and it's a bright sunny day in Portland, Oregon. The camera opens on a white van lurking in a busy parking lot in a strip mall, near a bank. The drivers of the van see their target and approach him target, the target is a young man in his early twenties. His naiveté is somewhat endearing because he is strikingly handsome and charming.
Stephen Dorff: (from the passenger seat, whispers loudly) Hey.
Me: (looks around, quizzically. Sees a white cargo van directly in front of him.) Who me?
SD: Yes. Hey. I’m in trouble. Do you think you can help me out?
M: I dunno.
SD: I’m in deep shit, man. I work for an electronics company and I have to make this delivery. The problem is, my boss gave me two more speakers then were actually ordered by the client and if I come back to my shop with the extra speakers, he’ll fire me. He’s a real hard ass.
M: Huh? What can I do?
SD: Tell you what, man. I’ll sell them to you. Real cheap. They’re good speakers, man. They retail at like two grand. Each.
M: (looks and sees the driver of the van staring straight ahead. He seems very serious) I don’t think so. That doesn’t interest me. What brand are they?
SD: NO, Stony, they’re real legit… look. (Dorff exits the van and the van parks. In his hands, Dorff is carrying a binder. He opens to a section that says Stony and points. ) See! Right there! Two grand. Retail.
M: (tries to grab the binder, but it’s snapped back.)
SD: Just look. I can’t let you touch it.
M: (looks.) They do look legit. I’ve never heard of them.
SD: Ya man, their new. Anyway, I’ll part with them, real cheap. How’s $1000 sound?
M: I don’t have that kind of money.
SD: Do you have a credit card?
SD: Just go into that bank right there and get a cash advance.
M: (looks towards the bank.) Hmm. I think I can only do $400.
SD: $400? These are $2000 speakers.
M: Well, have a nice day, then. I hope you don’t get fired.
SD: Hold on. (Dorff walks back to the van and appears to be discussing something with SO. We cannot hear what they are discussing. After a short time, he comes back and shrugs.) Alright. Four hundred is fine. Let’s go.
M: Go where?
SD: To the bank.
M: I can meet you back here.
SD: No man, I’ve been in that van all day. Besides, you seem like a cool dude. We could hang out for a minute.
M: (shrugs) alright.
The pair walk to the bank and a discussion occurs. Typically small talk like what do you do for work? What music do you like? Are you sure you can’t do more, like $800? M stands firm. They reach the bank teller. She is full lipped and dark skinned. Both SD and M are enamored with her instantly.
Bank Teller/Jessica Alba: Hello. How can I help you?
M: Hi. I’d like to take out a cash advance on my Discover Card .
BT/JA: (eyes the pair suspiciously) Okay. How much?
M: My limit is $400.
SD: can you check if it’s higher than that?
M: My limit is $400.
BT/JA: Raises her eye brows but completes the task.
The pair walk back through the parking lot.
SD: Where you parked. I’ll load them for you. Can I get that money?
M: I’m parked over here. You don’t get the money until I check out the speakers.
SD: I’ll follow you in the van to your car.
They approach M’s car and the speakers are quickly loaded in by SD. He then snatches the money out of M’s hand.
SD: Thanks man! (They shake hands and SD drives off.)
M gets into his car and quickly makes some phone calls. He plans to turn around and sell them for $600, but a sale never materializes. He won’t find out until the final act that the speakers are actually make from cheap wood and paper and are worth around $200. He has been scammed.
To learn more about the white van speaker scam, click this link and watch the videos.
The moral of the story is: if something seems too good to be true and somewhat odd, it probably is. Never hand your money over to a stranger, especially a stranger offering to unload for cheap something every valuable. It’s either not as valuable as they claim it is, or it’s stolen. Let Justin’s $400 lesson be enough to keep you from making the same mistake.
Don't forget about Gramma Ursula!