MANHATTAN (KSNT) – An investigation conducted by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) traced numerous online scam operations to a Manhattan businesses’ address investigators say isn’t affiliated with any online services.
The BBB released a press release stating that a legitimate business in the Little Apple is having its address used as a front in a series of online scams. Websites such as StyleWomenShoe.com, ZimmermannOutlet.com, DiscountValentines.shop, CatsLitters.com and Caravan Power & Electrical have all been found using the address 3039 Anderson Ave. in Manhattan. This address belongs to 1419 Mercantile, a business the BBB says has never sold any products through online services.
KSNT 27 News reached out to 1419 Mercantile for comment and spoke with its owner, Susan Doughty, about this harrowing experience she says started about a year ago.
“I got a phone call from a man very upset about us not shipping him bicycle parts,” Doughty said. “He said our address is listed on this bicycle parts website. By the time we found that, we were no longer listed, but by that time we started getting other calls.”
Doughty said her business started getting hundreds of calls, many from people upset at losing money in online scams. Doughty explained further that many fell for “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” scams.
The online scam websites never listed phone numbers for people to call so scam victims were left to do their own research, which eventually led them to 1419 Mercantile in Manhattan. Doughty said this has caused minor disruptions to her business on the daily.
“Everybody has their story,” Doughty said. “We’re on the phone a little more than we normally are. We listen and try to be sympathetic.”
The number of complaints eventually led the BBB to send a letter to Doughty’s business, after which she explained the situation to the BBB’s investigators. The BBB said in their press release that the scam websites offered discounts at rock-bottom prices on expensive products, usually marked with a few misspelled words, no listed phone number and 1419 Mercantile’s address.
“Very stressful,” Doughty said when asked about what this experience has been like. “Cyber Monday was awful. I was at the store and the phone was ringing off the hook. I do have a message on my machine stating that I’m not associated or affiliated with any internet sales.”
Doughty said the scams are always changing. For Halloween, she got calls about costumes. Nowadays, she said she’s been getting calls about camping gear and tools.
“For a few days you don’t get any calls, then a new thing pops up,” Doughty said.
The BBB’s press release gave three tips for those wanting to avoid getting scammed online:
- Observe the domain name closely – Fake websites will trick people by using a domain name that appears to be very close to a real business’ or organization’s domain name. Looking closely, you might see that some letters are swapped or that it’s slightly misspelled. If you spot a spelling error in the domain name, you’re not on the official site.
- Look out for tricky subdomains – Scammers will sometimes hope you will confuse a subdomain name with the real domain name of their website. For example, a scammer might use the domain name netflix.com.movies.com in the hopes you won’t notice the real domain name is actually movies.com.
- Be careful with links sent in emails – Phishing scams are everywhere. A scammer could send you an email that looks legitimate in the hopes you will click on the link without thinking about it. Hover over links in unsolicited emails and even in emails that come from a brand, business or person you think you know. If the link doesn’t match up with the blue text or it has a short link and you can’t tell where it leads, don’t click on it. If you do, you could be taken to a lookalike website where your personal information could be compromised.
You can find more information on how to report online fraud through the KID’s website by clicking here. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office also maintains various resources to help those who are the victims of scams. You can find more information online by clicking here.