If it seems too good to be true…

Submission by bi-weekly columnist about just having been had

Have you ever been scammed? I think it’s fairly safe to say most of us have been taken advantage of in that way at least once in our lifetime.

I’ve always thought of myself as being astute and having a highly refined B.S. meter which alerts me to the smell of manure being piled on.

That meter failed me and three others yesterday. Simply put, we were charmed, fast-talked and then deftly taken.

My husband, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and I were sitting on our deck in AZ enjoying the beautiful weather when a truck pulled up. From inside the truck a nice-looking, well-dressed and clean-shaven man asked us how close he was to Yuma. We were a bit shocked that this man believed Yuma was only about an hour away when, in fact, it is at least three hours away. After explaining to “Matt” (at least that was the name on his business card and driver’s license which he gamely showed us) that Yuma was further away than he thought, he then proceeded to tell us that he was on the way to the airport, but had a problem because he was a co-owner of the local Best Buy store and had two high-end surround sound systems worth $2,100 each which he couldn’t carry on to the plane.

Man oh man was “Matt” good. He was charming, obviously educated and could talk sports, concerts and anything else. In fact, he talked so fast that it was hard to take it all in. He was his own little whirlwind with a bit of razzle dazzle thrown in. We immediately liked this friendly , clean-cut man and so it wasn’t a huge effort to take the two systems off of his hands for $140 each. Both systems were professionally packaged, complete with the manufacturer’s website and a bar code with the suggested manufacturer’s retail price clearly visible.

After he left the four of us sat around discussing our luck and how fortuitous the day had turned out to be. Then, out of curiosity, I decided to Google the product.

My heart sank when the search showed link after link of consumer fraud reports for the product. With growing dread I clicked on one of the links and was horrified to read some of the comments. One person posted that when he opened the box he found a speaker full of sand, another reported that it was cheap plastic and nothing more. I’d read enough.

Stepping back onto the deck I suggested that someone might want to open the boxes to see what, exactly, we had purchased.

Sure enough, we were scammed. The directions were poorly produced facsimiles of what directions should look like and there was no amplifier, as pictured. Another quick Google search also advised us that the website on the box was false. At first we were shaken that all four of us could be easily beguiled and then scammed.

We called the number on “Matt’s” business card and, as expected, it was a bogus number.

A day later it still shocks me that four adults with relatively good intelligence were so thoroughly duped. I now understand why the elderly, who have plenty of life experience, are so easily scammed.

This guy was slick, slick, slick. Now though, in retrospect, I can see the red flags. But in the moment, when a screaming deal is in front of you, it’s hard to pay attention to those red flags.

I would like to think that in the future I won’t be so readily willing to foolishly part with our money and that it was a lesson well-learned.

The reality is, “If it seems too good to be true….” is a good rule of thumb.