New scams are popping up every day. If you want to stay one step ahead of the crooks, there’s a helpful website from the Better Business Bureau that can not only help you report scams but research the latest ones happening.
Recently, I met up with West Los Angeles resident Dahlia, who didn’t want me to use her full name on TV because she was so embarrassed about what happened to her.
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She describes herself as a smart woman who researches everything, but even she fell victim to a scam.
It all started when her son’s longtime cat, a Maine coon, passed away.
“He was heartbroken, so I wanted to get him another cat similar to the Maine coon cat that he had,” explained Dahlia.
She headed to Facebook in search of adoption groups and soon found the kitten she was looking for. It was from a breeder, but since it seemed perfect, she was willing to pay to get it.
The website had “pictures of families with these little kittens and gave you a warm feeling.”
First, they requested a $300 dollar deposit, which she sent through Zelle.
Then, a final payment of $1200, also sent through Zelle.
She told her son the news and, tracking number in hand, they waited.
“[We] followed the tracking number, it’s in route,” explained Dahlia.
Then, a last-minute change: the agency requested an additional $500 dollars because of a mix-up. The cat needed another shot, which was just $25. They were going to reimburse Dahlia the remaining $475 when they met in person.
That’s when Dahlia realized she was getting scammed.
“I said that to them… you guys are scammers I want my money back”
A quick call to her bank confirmed her suspicions, and while she didn’t get her money back, she was determined to make sure others didn’t fall victim.
She filled out a report on the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker website.
“Scam tracker is different than any other platform because it’s really geared towards protection of consumers,” explained Steve McFarland, CEO of BBB of Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.
The site, which recently got an update, works in two ways: you can report a scam or browse through what others are reporting.
Had Dahlia done a quick keyword search before handing over her hard-earned money, she would have seen scores of stories like hers. Every one of them ended in a fraud.
“You can prevent yourself from becoming a victim just by becoming aware,” explained McFarland.
Dahlia finally found a real kitten to adopt… but she won’t forget the lesson learned.
“Now I’m very careful about anything I do,” concluded Dahlia.
The BBB estimates that their scam tracker website saves consumers tens of millions of dollars each year.
When in doubt, check it first before doing any deal that seems too good to be true.