I was scammed, let me tell you how I handled it…
There are so many benefits to working at PC Matic. One of my favorites, however, is the wealth of information that I have at my disposal every day. I try to share a lot of that with you. Before Christmas, we published a blog on how to keep your money safe while online shopping.
Whenever security tips are advised by PC Matic, I make sure to adopt them. That’s why when I went to book a transportation company to move a car across the country, I remembered my safety tips.
I am not one to do something without researching it fully. Plans make me feel calm. I like reading as much as I can about something before jumping in. That’s what I do with new recipes, vacation spots, or tech gadgets, it’s what I did with buying a car, and it’s what I did with a company I’m going to call Auto Transportation*.
Two months ago, I started researching companies to move my car. I gathered quotes, read the market value on a move of that size, compared companies on independent websites, and read reviews by customers. After a lot of deliberation and comparison shopping, I gave my credit card number to the brokerage firm Auto Transportation.
That last part is important. I used a credit card. The reason for that was one that we outlined in the November 21st blog post. Credit card companies provide you with excellent fraud protection and have the added bonus of not being your actual bank account. And if you’re saying, “I don’t use credit cards,” a pay service like PayPal provides that same security and protection.
How it all works
It’s worth quickly noting how moving a car a long distance works. You hire a brokerage firm to book you space on a carrier. The carrier is registered and regulated through the federal government. Each driver has their own registration known as an FMCSA number. This allows you to go to a government website and check the carrier. It’s standard across the industry.
Auto Transportation charged my credit card the deposit fee we agreed on at the end of November. Before that, the brokerage rep, who we will call Barry*, was very attentive, communicating frequently with calls and texts. Even after my card was charged, he was still responding within a normal business time frame. I felt at ease.
The car was supposed to be picked up within a 3 day window of January 2nd 2020. That means any time between December 30th and January 5th. I asked Barry before Christmas to let me know the specifics. Would the driver be calling me? How much of a window would I get the day of? Could I have the contact information for the driver?
Barry answered me a few days later with a text, “you’ll get a call! Happy New Year!” This, folks, is the first sign of a scam. It’s when you begin to see that the dynamic has changed. It gives you an uneasy feeling. This is when you should begin to be on your guard.
When it all went wrong
By the 3rd of January, the car still hadn’t been picked up, and I’d had no communication. I text Barry because he still hadn’t answered from earlier in the week. After a few hours of no response, I called. He assured me they’d be there no later than the 5th. I needed to relax.
So I waited. I’m patient. I can let a process run it’s course.
The 5th came. No calls. No carriers. The car still hadn’t been picked up.
Barry and I are literally on the other side of the country from each other. By the time he answered my 4 text messages and 1 voicemail I’d left, it was already late afternoon on the East Coast. He apologized and said he’d get me information.
The second con
An hour later, a woman named Mindy* called from the carrier company. She assured me their truck had broken down and they were simply waiting for a part. Someone would come get the car within the next few days. She was very sorry and didn’t want to lose my business.
Mindy was sweet talking me. Here’s a warning about scams, the person on the other end of the line will try to put you at ease while also low key blaming you for being upset. It’s a form of gaslighting. Mindy told me I needed to accept responsibility.
And that’s when I knew. No one providing a legitimate service would blame you for something outside of your control; like a carrier company only having one truck that’s mysteriously broken down. I used the whitepages to look up Mindy’s number in reverse. It was the same company Barry worked for.
Remember, Barry is from a brokerage firm. Mindy claimed to be from a carrier company. The two aren’t the same. They’ll never be the same. I know this because I did a ton of research and learned all the industry rules before making a purchase.
Leap into action
I hung up with Mindy, no longer willing to give her any further information about myself. Barry sent a text to ask if I was satisfied. I asked Barry why I still didn’t have the carrier information. He skirted the issue.
While he was skirting the issue, I was on my mobile credit card app disputing the charges. I had the voicemails and texts from Barry confirming when they claimed original pick up. I made sure to let my credit card company know there was a long history of proof. They immediately refunded my deposit.
I continued to ask Barry for the information of the carrier driver and his FMCSA number. Barry continued to skirt the issue. I sent him a text telling him that this was obviously a scam and that’s why he wouldn’t provide me with the information I requested. His response was a long text telling me I obviously wouldn’t be satisfied and therefore he was refunding my deposit.
This is another red flag. When a company tells you that the issue is your attitude rather than a screw up in the service they provided, you can disregard their obvious attempts to blame you. Trying to make something feel like it’s your fault is a way of getting you to back down. Making you second guess your own judgement is a psychological trick used by scammers to get you to accept something fishy you normally wouldn’t accept.
After a scam, don’t delete anything. Make sure you hang on to any emails, voicemails, and text messages you’ve received. They’re the proof that you did your due diligence. You’ll need them for your credit card company or pay service.
After you’ve had a moment to collect yourself, make sure you visit The Internet Crimes Complaint Center run by the FBI. Make sure to be as detailed as possible. It’s our responsibility to each other to help shut down the bad guys.
What was my fault
I could have done things a little differently in the beginning. I could have demanded the carrier name and FMCSA number before giving Barry and Auto Transportation my credit card number. That is definitely on me.
Also, I could have taken my mother’s advice and called the Attorney General’s office in the two states where Auto Transportation is based out of to see if there have been any additional complaints lodged against them. I relied on internet learning to help with my decision. Granted, my internet learning was independent car moving comparison sites, consumer reports, and consumer reviews, but I should have taken it a step further and gone through more in-depth channels.
In the end though, being the victim of a scam is never your fault. You do your research, learn about what you’re purchasing, and you expect to receive goods or services in exchange for your payment. You do have to trust that there are legitimate businesses out there. Just make sure to protect yourself ahead of time.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what happened with the car, don’t worry. Two people I love very much are about to have a wonderful road trip that I’m paying for.
*Names have been changed.
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