Top tips to beat meal delivery tricksters: Internet Scambusters #1,018
Convenience and health precautions have driven a huge surge in doorstep meal deliveries, and scammers know it.
They're using fake websites to lure victims into their clutches, while some restaurants are also conning customers by overcharging and adding hidden fees.
We'll deliver on what they're up to in this week's issues, and how you can avoid falling victim.
Let's get started…
Watch Out For These 3 Big Home Meal Delivery Scams
1. Hidden Fees
Lawsuits are currently flying around alleging that certain restaurants, including some big chains, add significant amounts to delivery costs on services that they advertise as being low-cost or even free.
Many eateries legitimately charge a delivery fee, usually a couple of dollars. But some of them impose additional charges that may not be obvious when you order.
These include things like fuel surcharges, unspecified service fees and even what they label as "temporary inflation fees," "card swipe fees," or "non-cash adjustments."
In one reported case, a 3 percent "wellness fee" was added to a bill, supposedly to cover health insurance for employees! Another charged a "kitchen appreciation fee," presumably a tip for employees, though they may not have received it.
This isn't always a scam as long as these additions are declared upfront, though they still may seem rather vague. But sometimes the details are hidden in small print or not mentioned at all.
2. Price and Content Differences
Online menus are not always the same as those available to in-house diners. The meals themselves might be different -- and so might be how much you pay.
Researchers report home-delivered prices allegedly being as much as 30 percent more for the same meal in-house. The quantity of food you get may be different too, and the online version might not come with the same "extras" you get at the restaurant table.
3. Phony Websites
Scammers are building websites that look identical to those of well-known restaurants and with similar online addresses. Or they pretend to be a third-party home delivery company working with local eateries.
Consumers who order from them may be asked to pay in untraceable cryptocurrency, or, if they use a payment card, the crook uses the details to make immediate purchases before the theft is uncovered.
Either way, the victim gets no food!
This scam has also been used by crooks pretending to be meal-kit distributors. They send out emails or text messages using the names of well-known kit companies, with links leading to a fake site.
Some fake websites offer a supposed subscription service, where the consumer pays a fee of perhaps $100 for "free" delivery of future meals for the next year. Again, their card details are stolen and immediately used by the villains.
In another scheme, online crooks offer deeply discounted meals from known and reputable restaurants. They use stolen payment cards to order the food from the eatery and deliver it before the card fraud is discovered.
In this case, the restaurant rather than the consumer is usually the victim. And, according to a recent Detroit newspaper report, the diner may even suspect it's a scam but goes along with it anyway to get the cheap meal.
How to Beat the Meal Delivery Scammers
- Monitor your credit card bill for signs that someone else is using your card.
- Compare the amount you were billed against the charge that appears on your card statement.
- Make sure you are on the correct website for a restaurant you plan to buy from.
- Buy only from restaurants you already know -- not establishments you've never heard of.
- Check the restaurant website or delivery app for small print that identifies additional costs.
- Check the bill and the contents immediately to confirm it's what you ordered and that items are not missing or others added.
- If you decide to pay for a subscription service, only deal with reputable deliverers that you have thoroughly researched.
- Don't use cybercurrency to pay for your meal. It's almost certainly a scam. Use a credit card. Most card providers protect you against fraud.
If you think you've been misled or scammed on a meal delivery contact the restaurant or delivery service you bought from. If you're still not happy, file a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission.
This Week's Scam Alerts
Fake Update: Still using Windows 10? Watch out for scam update messages with a link that's supposed to install the latest version of the operating system. Several fake updates, with genuine-sounding filenames, are currently circulating. They install malware, usually ransomware that locks up the user's machine. Avoid this by using only the "check for updates" built into Windows' settings.
Doggy Tales: Don't be taken in by that appealing online photo of a supposed dog breeder when you're shopping for a pet. Scammers have been stealing online photos of dog owners cuddling their pets and using them in social media ads. Research any supposed breeder thoroughly before making that buy decision. And beware of "sellers" saying they can supply your new pet immediately. There are waiting lists for most popular breeds like Labradoodles.
Not So Clean: You're renting a vacation home when a "cleaner" arrives supposedly to change the towels. Don't let them in unless you're expecting them, and then follow them around the place while they do the job. If not, they may be planning to clean out more than the towels!
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!