In Part I, I wrote about my experiences working with an app developer and how what seemed like a match made in heaven, turned out to be something altogether different. If you haven’t read Part I of How I Got Scammed, go here: https://challengeyourvision.com/2019/09/how-i-got-scammed
Trust, but verifyRussian Proverb
I pick up the story from when I had decided to confront the developer at his office. That was a tough decision, because I didn’t want to believe something was wrong, but I had to get to the truth. So, I sent a text to the head developer letting him know that I was coming to see them and wanted to see how my money was being spent. Again, there was no reply.
On a Saturday, my husband and I headed to San Jose. When we got to their address, I breathed a sigh of relief, because I was impressed by the size of the office building. I felt reassured because there was a bank on the first floor. When I went to look at the directory, however, there was no listing for their business. I thought there must have been some mistake, but no, their business didn’t operate out of that address. WTF?
So then, we went to the other address that was provided on the business contract that I had signed. I had been fighting off that sinking feeling all day, and now, it only got worse when we pulled up to see one of those Mail Box stores. It turned out that their business address was a P.O. Box!
I turned to my husband and said, “I think they stole my money” …”No, that can’t be right. They had put so much work into the app, already. There must be some mistake…Something must have happened. ”
As I then recounted the entire episode for the third time that morning, I still couldn’t accept that they would cheat me.
My next step was to contact the referral service that put us together in the first place. I was stunned to discover that the company didn’t properly vet the businesses that use their service, and in fact, if you only had an address, you could use their service. WTF?
I spent the rest of the day trying to find any information I could on the people I worked with, the company, and the third-party company that guaranteed me an app only to discover that company’s website had disappeared! I kept encountering dead-end after dead-end. Even their Linked-In profiles didn’t have their personal pictures on them (BIG RED FLAG) and all of the phone numbers turned out to be cell phones; in fact, I couldn’t find a physical address for any of them.
By now, I needed to get some professional help and I contacted the Santa Clara County Consumer Fraud Department. They advised me to immediately cancel my credit card and wait till they had done some research. Although, this wasn’t their particular area of expertise, they could do some checking for me and would advise me as to who I would need to contact next.
What they found was that the third-party company that guaranteed the app developer’s work, and to whom I provided a lot of personal information, was actuallly owned by the app developer! Not only that, but that company was now defunct!
The fraud department recommended that I contact my credit card company to file a complaint and that is what I did.
It took two months just to get to this point. Frankly, I started to feel very stupid when I began to recount everything that happened to the lady at the fraud department. I was grateful that I had the good sense to document everything, including the texts and emails they sent me, and because I did that, my timeline was incredibly accurate.
However, no matter how accurate my timeline was, I was devastated to learn that they had lied to me. They were able to trick me, I believe, because I didn’t want to take the time to vet them properly and I didn’t know how online businesses commit fraud.
My desire to create a mobile app for my coaching business was so great that I kept ignoring the warning signs.A very embarassed person said this 🙂
Early the following Monday morning, I contacted by bank and filed a complaint against the merchant. The gentleman explained that they would issue me a credit and the company had 60 days to respond to my complaint. If they did not respond, the credit would become permanent.
A few days later, surprise, surprise, the developer reached out to me via text full of apologies and explanations about employee turnover and a disruption in the company. According to him, they had made significant progress on my app and couldn’t wait to show it to me – all I had to do was to withdraw the complaint.
I have to say, I was tempted to withdraw the complaint, not because of their apology, although that mattered; and not because they said they made significant progress on the app, which excited me. I wanted to withdraw the complaint, because I wanted them to do the right thing. I needed to believe that it was all a misunderstanding.
However, a cooler head helps one to see the big picture clearly. What prevented me from giving them another chance was reading over the timeline of what had happened and remembering how I felt when I found out that they tricked me into believing a third-party company verified and guaranteed their work, as well as, the months and months of fear, disappointment and heartache that didn’t have to happen.
So I texted back and informed him that I wanted a refund of monies owed me for nonperformance and I also informed him that I had documented everything including screenshots of that third-party company with their five star reviews. The developer apologized and agreed to the refund.
Time lost: Four Months
I finally got my money back when the complaint expired at the end of the sixty day grace period. What would have happened had I given them another chance? Would I have lost even more money?
In my research, I had learned that the best scams are those conducted over time with incremental influxes of cash to resolve a so-called challenge that has occurred in the project.
All in all, I lost 120 days, nights of sleep, and experienced a lot of fear, anxiety, disappointment and sadness. However, I believe life happens for me and not to me, so I had to ask these two questions:
- What did I need to learn from this experience?
- How do I share these lessons with others so they don’t get scammed?
Top 7 Ways to Prevent Fraud
- Verify that any referral service has properly vetted the companies that they recommend to you.
- DO NOT sign a contract and give money at the first meeting.
- Verify that the company is telling you the truth by verifying their work address, business filings, ownership, their business affiliations, and the testimonials of the people who claim they received good service from them, including their Linked-In profiles.
- Verify all phone numbers and addresses that you have been provided.
- Use only credit cards to purchase services, so that, you have an easier time recouping your money if something goes wrong.
- Document everything. When you do, it makes it easy to support your interpretation of events and it makes it easier for the professionals to help you.
- Speed of Decision. I believe I had the best outcome, because I didn’t hesitate to act when I finally recognized the truth.
Dealing with the loss of my mother and making a major business decision, at the same time, needed to have been handled with patience and thorough planning. Had I employed all of the above recommendations, I may have prevented months of fear, anxiety, disappointment and worry.
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With love and respect,