It started innocently. The woman’s husband died. He bought a Steinway baby grand piano, played it just a few times, and he died. He loved that piano, but now he was dead and it was time to find the instrument a new home. The piano would be free to a loving family. Only shipping needed to be paid.
I didn’t remember the woman. She had met me once and knew that I could help. I replied to her email sympathetically, explaining that it would not be so easy to find a home for her piano. No one plays anymore and no one has room anymore. All the piano-loving families are gone. I already love a piano: a seven and half foot Fazioli grand. It was hand-made in Italy and it weighs a thousand pounds. When it is not being played it announces to the world that I won’t be moving soon.
Two months later, I got another email from the woman. Or perhaps it was a different woman, a different dead husband, and a different Steinway baby grand. Now the piano was in storage. All I had to do was contact the moving company and make arrangements. The piano would be free to a loving home.
This time I knew a loving home: my favorite pianist was getting married and a Steinway would make a good wedding gift. I could store it next to my Fazioli while she and her husband settled into a house. I contacted the moving company by text message. I wanted to wait until spring to ship the piano. Could they store it month to month? They could for $205. I expected to pay by credit card. The mover wanted his payment through a smartphone app.
For some reason, the fact that they wanted the money through an app made me suspicious. Still, I arranged it and sent the mover a screen shot of the transfer. Then, and only then, did the story fall apart. A half an hour after I arranged the payment, the mover was asking me to check on the transfer. This did not add up: the mover has a $40,000 piano to sell and a previous owner who is still on the hook. Why on earth does he need my money within a half an hour?
I canceled the money transfer and started investigating. The moving company had no address and did not come up on Google. The emails came from Chile. Most damning of all: searching the internet it appears that this woman had offered the dead man’s piano to many people, had accepted payments for moving it, and had never delivered it.
There were more text messages from the mover about the payment. I claimed I would be too busy to do any more checking on the transfer because I had tested positive for COVID. The next day the mover texted again, this time I wrote, “This is his brother. I have no idea what this is about. They say he will be out tomorrow.” After that, I didn’t reply to the texts anymore. I hoped the mover thought I died of COVID on Christmas day.
It seems to me that the Piano Scam is a hard way to make not very much money. And yet, I love the story, the story of love for a piano, the story of wanting someone to love the piano that I love. Maybe this is all the scammers are really after: proof that the dead man’s piano is worthy of love. Maybe this is not really a scam at all.
I want to send a text the mover. “This is the brother. He died. Just send me enough money to ship his grand piano. Make sure it finds a loving home.”