SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – We’re hearing about new scams almost daily, and one Springfield restaurant says it is experiencing a bizarre food delivery service scam.
The owner of Chameleon Cuisine in downtown Springfield said he has run into some issues with a few common food delivery service apps, like Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash. Recently a handful of drivers with a few of these food delivery services have shown up expecting an order that never showed up in their system.
Chameleon Cuisine owner Yoni Vargas said he filled many of these orders, only to realize that he was not getting paid for them. Instead, he was cooking meals and footing the bill himself.
“We were sending a couple of orders and I’m like, that’s just too much,” he said. “We can’t send that many. We’re gonna go broke.”
Vargas said his restaurant’s identity has been stolen. Fake restaurants have been added online and on those apps using his menu and Chameleon Cuisine’s address downtown. The phone numbers listed for the fake restaurants are different, but after a few calls, Vargas quickly learned those numbers end up linking back to his number if a caller dials one of the operator’s listed options.
Vargas said the issue started back in January after Grubhub called to congratulate him and activate an account for a new taco restaurant listed at the exact address of Chameleon Cuisine.
“I was like wait for a second,” he described. “No that’s wrong. Maybe you made a mistake. But when they called me again to say you are ready to go live with a different restaurant I was like no. So that was a big red flag.”
Other restaurants pretending to be his have also been added online since then, including a wing restaurant.
He said drivers would come in with a confirmation number, but the orders would not go through on his end.
“I just ask them, ‘hey can you resend the order,’ Vargas described. “If you resend it I will make it, because it hits my system. Now I have a way to track it, the other way I can’t track it. Even though they had an order, I would call the foodservice and said, ‘hey I have this order, do you have it on file?’ They would say no.”
Vargas said he called Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash about a few of these orders, and they could never find the orders in their systems.
“I don’t know how they [scammers] are doing it, but I know that nothing pops up in my system,” Vargas said.
The Better Business Bureau says third-party food delivery scams like this have increased. It says online sales scams in general have increased since the start of the pandemic.
“You may find a website that looks like it belongs to the restaurant, or you may find a third party website that looks very professional and similar to real services like DoorDash or GrubHub,” Stephanie Garland with the Springfield Better Business Bureau said. “However, when you click on the link, you select your food, you enter your credit card information to pay, charges appear in your account, but the food never arrives. And when you call the restaurant to see what happens, of course, unfortunately, they are unaware of your order because you ordered it with fake people.”
Vargas said he has stopped giving out orders if they cannot be verified.
“We’re not sending ‘ghost orders’ out anymore,” he said. “And they [scams] have slowed down.”
He’s thankful that the issue has slowed down, but still has some concerns. The BBB said these types of scams can be a bit of a double-edged sword.
“Not only are these hurting consumers, but if consumers don’t understand what’s going on, this is also hurting a business owner,” Garland said. “If the business owner thinks that this was a real order and goes ahead and makes the food, then the business owner is out that money.”
This is exactly what Vargas said he worries about.
“They might be trying to order from us, but now they’re saying, ‘hey this restaurant, whatever it is, doesn’t deliver food,’” Vargas described. “ ‘So why would I order from them again?’ ”
He is worried about his business’s reputation but also does not want to lose money. In the meantime, he has advice for other businesses. He recommends other businesses always be sure to verify the order. Vargas also has advice for customers looking to order online.
“Just double-check these websites,” he said. “See if they are real because they look legit. The only thing it doesn’t have is my pictures.”
The BBB says to take a few extra steps to verify before you order.
“When you’re searching on a website, you need to be very cautious and read the full URL and see is it very close to the actual spelling of the name? Is there an extra period or a dash where normally there wouldn’t be? Just take a couple of extra seconds to do your research,” Garland said.
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