Any lawyers? Got scammed

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jehovasfitness
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Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:40 am

Last June, my wife and I ordered a custom dining set from a local person. She had good online reviews shipping all over but we lived within driving distance to her store.

It seemed legit and were given a time window for delivery.

Half way through we were informed that she had cancer so we decided not to rush them and even figured we would given her extra time to complete the order.

This took us past 6 months where credit cards will refund your money.

Then in Jan we saw a news story where other people didn't get their product too.

Part of me thinks she really was/is sick as I've contacted past customers via FB that did get their product years ago.

But we haven't heard back from the lady and part of me would be ok losing our money if she would just be honest and say she is in fact sick and can't even refund our money.

But we have heard nothing.

Is there any practical recourse we can take here? We lost a $1500 deposit.

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jhfenton
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jhfenton » Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:07 am

I don't know what state you're in, but it sounds like a perfect case for small claims court, if she's not sick and judgment-proof. This list of state small claims court limits isn't perfect, but it appears that every state has a limit above $1,500. (Ohio's limit was raised to $6,000 in late 2016, but this list still has $3,000.)

If you have proof of credit card payment and, ideally, a copy of an order form or receipt describing what you ordered, that would be all you would need to file.

If she's really sick and doesn't appear to have a lot in the way of assets, I'd probably not waste the time.

jehovasfitness
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:18 am

Never having dealed with this. How does paying attorney fees work or is small claims court basically just you representing yourself?

Seems silly to spend say 1k on fees to try and get back 1500. I have 0 experience with courts though.

bgf
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by bgf » Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:38 am

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:18 am
Never having dealed with this. How does paying attorney fees work or is small claims court basically just you representing yourself?

Seems silly to spend say 1k on fees to try and get back 1500. I have 0 experience with courts though.
your small claims court will probably have a mix. some cases will involve attorneys, generally those where an insurance company is paying the fees, but others will just have parties representing themselves. the judge will most likely act accordingly. with parties representing themselves, the judge will take an active role asking questions to determine the legal issues. with attorneys, the judge will likely sit back as the attorneys would, presumably, know what they are doing. but, as with everything, that depends on the judge.
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craimund
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by craimund » Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:46 am

You would not need an attorney for small claims court. The Court Clerk's Office can probably provide you with the information needed to file the claim. She would probably not show and you would end up with a default judgment. You would then need to collect which may not be easy. If you did hire an attorney, they would probably require a retainer up front for their fees. Given the amount and simplicity of the claim, it would probably not be worth it to hire an attorney.

If you are unable to recover, you may be able to deduct the loss on your taxes.
"When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose"-Bob Dylan 1965. "When you think that you've lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more"-Dylan 1997

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:00 am

Thanks

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nisiprius
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by nisiprius » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:12 am

I knew someone who successfully got a security deposit back from a landlord, with interest, by going to small claims court. The details are different everywhere. You don't need to pay a lawyer, it's just your time, not your money.

A common problem is getting the judgement but not being able to collect on it. If the scammer was one of these common cases of someone who didn't really mean to scam but ran into serious business problems and didn't know what to do but keep taking orders and collecting deposits and hoping that something would turn up... that is, if it is more like "scamming because they're bankrupt" rather than "scamming because they are scammers," they may not pay even after you win your case.

Personally, I would balance off the amount of stress from losing $1,500 with the amount of stress it will take to fight it.

Before small claims court you might try something in between, like mailing a print letter, certified mail, return receipt requested, signature required firmly but politely demanding a refund. Come to think of it, send it by an overnight service--express mail, or maybe FedEx? just because it costs more, like $25 maybe, and conveys a sense of urgency. Depending on the merchant's real situation, they might be able to refund a few deposits on a "squeaking wheel gets the grease" basis, and certified mail with signature and return receipt makes a loud squeak. You don't need to threaten legal action and probably shouldn't. It prevents them from simply not returning your call. This is also a good preliminary move even if you do decide to take it to small claims court, as the judge is likely to want to know what you tried. Oh, include a self-addressed stamped envelope "for your convenience in mailing the check."
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DanMahowny
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by DanMahowny » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:16 am

I wouldn't let someone play the "cancer card" to interfere with business.

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lthenderson
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by lthenderson » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:22 am

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:40 am
Is there any practical recourse we can take here? We lost a $1500 deposit.
I've been in a similar situation twice however with businesses that were a bit bigger from the sound of it. In both cases I was able to get refunds/or product by opening up a claim with the state's Better Business Bureau. The way is appears to work, after I wrote the claim, the BBB contacted the other business and gave them a chance to refute my claims and then gave me a chance to prove my claims. Both times I submitted phone records, emails and receipts proving my story and in both cases, I got my refund in once case and coincidentally, my dining room table that I ordered in another. Had the case continued on in my favor without resolution from the business, they get a rating decrease from the BBB which makes it harder for them to continue doing business.

I would go that route first and if that didn't work, then I would go the lawsuit/lawyer route.

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climber2020
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by climber2020 » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:26 am

My mom got scammed years back, so I tracked down the person's home address and phone number, called them at home in the evening from a payphone to verify the house address, and offered to drive over to the house with some friends the next day to get the money back. The lady showed up at my mom's place of business at 8 AM the following morning and paid up.

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:28 am

climber2020 wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:26 am
My mom got scammed years back, so I tracked down the person's home address and phone number, called them at home in the evening from a payphone to verify the house address, and offered to drive over to the house with some friends the next day to get the money back. The lady showed up at my mom's place of business at 8 AM the following morning and paid up.
Lol

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climber2020
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by climber2020 » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:33 am

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:28 am
climber2020 wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:26 am
My mom got scammed years back, so I tracked down the person's home address and phone number, called them at home in the evening from a payphone to verify the house address, and offered to drive over to the house with some friends the next day to get the money back. The lady showed up at my mom's place of business at 8 AM the following morning and paid up.
Lol
I want to clarify that I had absolutely no intention of actually going over there, but the other person didn't know that.

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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:40 am

I have gone to small claims court in the past. So has my father. It worked in our favor both times. You do not need a lawyer to do this. All you're doing is stating the facts (have your receipts, dates you talked to the merchant, proof you tried to work with credit card company, etc.). You don't need help to do this if you write down the timeline and have your receipts, emails, correspondence to present to a judge.

Based on the details you described, I would definitely go to small claims court in this case. You paid for an item in good faith that was not delivered. You are entitled to have your money returned to you so you can buy that item somewhere else. You held up your end, she did not. Regardless of the reason (she got sick and has medical bills) that's not really the issue, so don't conflate the two. If you want to offer her money for her medical bills she should have asked you directly. I understand people fall on hard times, but as we say on this board so many times, "Isn't that what emergency savings are for?" Yes she was running a business which is difficult; there are cash flow issues, etc. It's all irrelevant. You had a contract. She reneged.

The fee to go to small claims court is nominal. Yes, you may not collect even if judgement is in your favor...but here's the thing:

When you get judgement in your favor and they do not pay as ordered by the judge, you get to file a lien on their property.

Now you might be saying, "They don't have anything". You don't know that. They might live in a house. Even if the house is not paid for in full yet (they still have a mortgage) that means they might have some equity. When (not if) they (or their kids) sell the property, all liens have to be satisfied FIRST. You then get your money out of their equity. This happened to my father. He had to wait a very long time, but eventually got his money. Patience pays off.

You really don't know what they have or don't have. So it makes sense to file in small claims court. Yes it's time spent and court costs, but it's also about the principle. This is why I went to small claims court. It wasn't about the money, it was about the principle. Going to court, saying my side of the story and hearing the judge find in my favor restored a little bit of humanity that I was doubting still existed after the way I was treated by the person I took to court. What made the whole thing funny was the son of the woman I filed against "represented" the woman because he was in some Ivy league law school at the time. He tried to intimidate me the whole time making it seem like I knew nothing of the law because I wasn't a lawyer. I had the last laugh though when the judge found in my favor.

I'm not sure if the following is true so check on it: my father said he had to periodically renew the lien (if the judgement wasn't satisfied within so many years) because they only lasted for so many years. Don't know about that. Maybe someone else does.
Last edited by arcticpineapplecorp. on Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:56 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by spectec » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:49 am

climber2020 wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:33 am
jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:28 am
climber2020 wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:26 am
My mom got scammed years back, so I tracked down the person's home address and phone number, called them at home in the evening from a payphone to verify the house address, and offered to drive over to the house with some friends the next day to get the money back. The lady showed up at my mom's place of business at 8 AM the following morning and paid up.
Lol
I want to clarify that I had absolutely no intention of actually going over there, but the other person didn't know that.
Wonder what might have happened if the person had been a professional scammer. Maybe she would have shown up at your mom's place of business at 8 am the following morning with some of HER friends.
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climber2020
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by climber2020 » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:57 am

spectec wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:49 am
climber2020 wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:33 am
jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:28 am
climber2020 wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:26 am
My mom got scammed years back, so I tracked down the person's home address and phone number, called them at home in the evening from a payphone to verify the house address, and offered to drive over to the house with some friends the next day to get the money back. The lady showed up at my mom's place of business at 8 AM the following morning and paid up.
Lol
I want to clarify that I had absolutely no intention of actually going over there, but the other person didn't know that.
Wonder what might have happened if the person had been a professional scammer. Maybe she would have shown up at your mom's place of business at 8 am the following morning with some of HER friends.
Lady was in her 60s and based on the info I found online, was low risk. If it was a 25 year old former inmate with an extensive past, I wouldn't have bothered.

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DanMahowny
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by DanMahowny » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:59 am

climber2020 wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:26 am
My mom got scammed years back, so I tracked down the person's home address and phone number, called them at home in the evening from a payphone to verify the house address, and offered to drive over to the house with some friends the next day to get the money back. The lady showed up at my mom's place of business at 8 AM the following morning and paid up.
Threatening strangers is dangerous biz.

Make threat. Drive over there. Get shot in the face.
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climber2020
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by climber2020 » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:59 am

DanMahowny wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:59 am
climber2020 wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:26 am
My mom got scammed years back, so I tracked down the person's home address and phone number, called them at home in the evening from a payphone to verify the house address, and offered to drive over to the house with some friends the next day to get the money back. The lady showed up at my mom's place of business at 8 AM the following morning and paid up.
Threatening strangers is dangerous biz.

Make threat. Drive over there. Get shot in the face.
Read the entire thread.

Not paying strangers is also a dangerous biz.

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samsoes
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by samsoes » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:13 am

I know it's too late in this situation, but the credit card time limit should be treated as a hard deadline. If there looks to be any issues whatsoever, the charge should be contested and then reversed by the credit card company within that timeframe.

(Having said that, I know that there are some wedding reception venues in my area who won't take a credit card beyond the initial deposit, especially if the event's date is within the credit card reversal window. I suppose if the prime rib at the reception was too tough, the charge could be reversed after the event.)
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by LarryAllen » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:17 am

Odds of collection are probably close to zero. Just move on. Chalk it up as a loss. Similar thing happened to us. Actually to my law firm. Lol. We just walked away. Not worth the time to get a judgement as most of these deadbeats are near impossible to collect from without substantial time and energy spent. Sucks.

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Pajamas
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by Pajamas » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:34 am

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:40 am
Last June, my wife and I ordered a custom dining set from a local person. She had good online reviews shipping all over but we lived within driving distance to her store.

It seemed legit and were given a time window for delivery.

Half way through we were informed that she had cancer so we decided not to rush them and even figured we would given her extra time to complete the order.

This took us past 6 months where credit cards will refund your money.

Then in Jan we saw a news story where other people didn't get their product too.

Part of me thinks she really was/is sick as I've contacted past customers via FB that did get their product years ago.

But we haven't heard back from the lady and part of me would be ok losing our money if she would just be honest and say she is in fact sick and can't even refund our money.

But we have heard nothing.

Is there any practical recourse we can take here? We lost a $1500 deposit.
It's easy enough to figure out the name of the company, interesting situation. Looks like a legitimate business that ran into trouble for unknown reasons. The fact that they have cut off communication and have not make an official public announcement is a shame, even if the business just ran into financial trouble through mismanagement. They do owe their customers an explanation.

You could file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General's office. They likely already have received complaints and are investigating. I would go that route instead of bothering with small claims court because of the effort and possibly cost involved with it as well as the unlikelihood of actually collecting anything vs. the A.G. taking care of it.

http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/ ... fault.aspx

boglegirl
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by boglegirl » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:41 am

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:40 am
...

This took us past 6 months where credit cards will refund your money.
..
Did you call your credit card company and ask? Sometimes they have recourse against the seller. I was out of the official time limit once and called them; they opened a dispute and I got my $ back.

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:42 am

boglegirl wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:41 am
jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:40 am
...

This took us past 6 months where credit cards will refund your money.
..
Did you call your credit card company and ask? Sometimes they have recourse against the seller. I was out of the official time limit once and called them; they opened a dispute and I got my $ back.
Yep even sent in supporting documentation and they ruled in merchant favor due to time elapsed

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bottlecap
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by bottlecap » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:45 am

Your options are to file in small claims by yourself, file a police report, do both, or cut your losses.

Not enough money or prospect of recovery to even discuss with a lawyer.

JT

justsaying
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by justsaying » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:52 am

In some states the State Attorney General has a consumer protection unit. I have seen them send a demand letter which got a favorable result. Unclear if the agency would have done more but I know they can if it is important enough. Might be worth a call or email.

Good luck.

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nisiprius
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by nisiprius » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:58 am

By the way, I can't prove it but I am almost convinced that some scammers--in my case, an eBay seller--intentionally try to "run out the clock" on credit card dispute deadlines.
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Pajamas
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by Pajamas » Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:13 am

nisiprius wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:58 am
By the way, I can't prove it but I am almost convinced that some scammers--in my case, an eBay seller--intentionally try to "run out the clock" on credit card dispute deadlines.
Yes, they certainly do that. They also take advantage of PayPal quirks and similar. Sometimes the whole scam depends on policies of the payment processor, such as providing a shipping tracking number to initiate the release of funds. Similar scams on Amazon bilk Amazon but Amazon makes its customers whole.

InMyDreams
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by InMyDreams » Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:16 am

I wonder if the local consumer affairs TV reporter would take it on?

Does she have a business license? I wonder if the licensing organization would at least take the complaint info, and perhaps give any potential customers a heads up.

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau - same thing - provide potential customers a warning.

File a complaint with the State consumer affairs department. At least if they investigate, they may be able to shut this down, and perhaps get you some money back.

I filed a complaint against a company on the east coast with both the BBB and the state's Consumer Protection department. As soon as the latter learned that I had filed with the former, the state withdrew. I thought that was weird, but the BBB did get my money back.

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by Sic Vis Pacem » Wed Mar 21, 2018 11:48 am

The comments above on small claims are all accurate and may be your best bet. I would suggest also contacting the Better Business Bureau and your state consumer protection agency (often an arm of or related to the Attorney General). Even if you do not recover yourself, you may help prevent people from getting into a similar situation in the future.

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 11:58 am

Sic Vis Pacem wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 11:48 am
The comments above on small claims are all accurate and may be your best bet. I would suggest also contacting the Better Business Bureau and your state consumer protection agency (often an arm of or related to the Attorney General). Even if you do not recover yourself, you may help prevent people from getting into a similar situation in the future.
Yep. Contacted BBB and so did 5 others all negative

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by PhilosophyAndrew » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:11 pm

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 11:58 am
Contacted BBB and so did 5 others all negative
[/quote]

It sounds like you have already taken many reasonable steps to address the problem. This could be a scam, but cancer is a cruel disease, and it is possible that the seller is in a position neither to fulfill your order nor to answer your queries.

If it were me, I would let it drop and say a prayer for the seller and her family -- to me, that would be a positive resolution, whereas worrying about whether I was scammed with no way to know would be an ongoing source of pain.

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by Jags4186 » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:20 pm

Try to get on Judge Judy or People's Court. That way if you win the show pays you. Plus you get to be on TV and I'm sure you get an appearance fee on top plus a free mini vacation and a great story to tell for the rest of your life!

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:22 pm

PhilosophyAndrew wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:11 pm
jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 11:58 am
Contacted BBB and so did 5 others all negative
It sounds like you have already taken many reasonable steps to address the problem. This could be a scam, but cancer is a cruel disease, and it is possible that the seller is in a position neither to fulfill your order nor to answer your queries.

If it were me, I would let it drop and say a prayer for the seller and her family -- to me, that would be a positive resolution, whereas worrying about whether I was scammed with no way to know would be an ongoing source of pain.
[/quote]

Yeah, mentally I've come to the point I'm writing it off as a loss and lesson learned. Glad it wasn't more. But sad it's still $1500.

Was just curious what if any recourse could be had.

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Pajamas
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by Pajamas » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:25 pm

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:22 pm
Was just curious what if any recourse could be had.
Three people have suggested contacting the Consumer Protection Division of the State Attorney General's office.

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snackdog
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by snackdog » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:32 pm

It does not sound like you have made reasonable steps to contact the lady. You said you can drive to her shop. Have you done so? Have you had a phone conversation? Maybe she just needs more time.

If you can't get satisfaction in person or by telephone, the next step is a registered/certified letter demanding your money back. Wait a couple weeks.

Then, you have exhausted attempts to clear things up and are ready for a resolution via BBB or Judge Judy.

jehovasfitness
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:34 pm

Pajamas wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:25 pm
jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:22 pm
Was just curious what if any recourse could be had.
Three people have suggested contacting the Consumer Protection Division of the State Attorney General's office.
Yeah, I was making a general statement in regards to starting the thread

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:34 pm

snackdog wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:32 pm
It does not sound like you have made reasonable steps to contact the lady. You said you can drive to her shop. Have you done so? Have you had a phone conversation? Maybe she just needs more time.

If you can't get satisfaction in person or by telephone, the next step is a registered/certified letter demanding your money back. Wait a couple weeks.

Then, you have exhausted attempts to clear things up and are ready for a resolution via BBB or Judge Judy.
The shop is closed and no longer there.

Local news even did a story on it and they were unable to reach contact the business

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by HongKonger » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:40 pm

snackdog wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:32 pm
It does not sound like you have made reasonable steps to contact the lady. You said you can drive to her shop. Have you done so? Have you had a phone conversation? Maybe she just needs more time.

If you can't get satisfaction in person or by telephone, the next step is a registered/certified letter demanding your money back. Wait a couple weeks.

Then, you have exhausted attempts to clear things up and are ready for a resolution via BBB or Judge Judy.
This was my thought too. Drive over there, pick up the phone, just get in touch ...be the squeaky wheel.

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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by EyeYield » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:42 pm

Yes, try Judge Judy, if:
1) Defendant is NOT in the throes of cancer.
2) You don’t mind taking the time to go to Miami? is it.
3) You don’t mind being on national tv.

Apparently you will get paid, if this is correct.

“A claim can be made for up to $5,000, and the award for each judgment is paid by the producers. On top of this, both the plaintiff and the defendant receive an appearance fee that has reportedly ranged between $100-$500. A daily wage of $35 per litigant is paid, as well as airfare and hotel expenses for the duration of the show’s taping for that particular week (typically 2-3 days).”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Judy

Edit: Spelling.
Last edited by EyeYield on Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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jehovasfitness
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:45 pm

Wait, some of you are serious about judge Judy? Lol that would be worth it for the experience alone haha

Fallible
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Re: Any lawyers? Got scammed

Post by Fallible » Wed Mar 21, 2018 2:03 pm

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:40 am
Last June, my wife and I ordered a custom dining set from a local person. She had good online reviews shipping all over but we lived within driving distance to her store.

It seemed legit and were given a time window for delivery.

Half way through we were informed that she had cancer so we decided not to rush them and even figured we would given her extra time to complete the order.

This took us past 6 months where credit cards will refund your money.

Then in Jan we saw a news story where other people didn't get their product too. ...
Some questions came to my mind while reading this: Who was the news story's source and what exactly did they say? Are other affected customers taking any action? Was the woman contacted? Who informed you that she had cancer and did they give you a new delivery time? Did you try to contact the woman or her associates since the January story?
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