BOISE -- Sometimes with scams the idea is so strange you think it has to be true because no one makes this kind of stuff up. KTVB got a tip from a tow truck company owner wondering if she was the target of a scam or if something else is going on.
Kathi VanderMeer's story is so odd in fact, that when she and KTVB both called the Better Business Bureau, someone who's been there for 30 years apparently told another BBB employee it's one of the most bizarre stories they've ever gotten.
The story started on Friday, April 25, 2014, when an older woman, who said her name was Cheryl Barnes, came into Boise Valley Towing. She told the front desk women she had a gift for the owner. VanderMeer came out to talk to the woman.
She indicated to me that her husband had passed away, and they had no children and that her husband had left my husband a 1955 Ford Truck, VanderMeer said. I was shocked because I didn't know this lady, and I started asking her questions, and she got a little teary eyed.
The two women went into VanderMeer's office to talk. That's when the story of a gift from her late husband quickly turned to needing money to pay a contractor and save her home.
She came up with this story to me about needing half of what his total charge was going to be, and that amount was $566, VanderMeer said.
VanderMeer asked whom she would make a check out to if she gave her money. The woman said she could only take cash to the contractor.
That's when I really got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, VanderMeer said.
VanderMeer told the woman she doesn't keep that kind of cash in the business office, only checks. The woman said she'd go get the truck and come back for cash.
She said she was going to get the truck and she would meet me back here in 20-30 minutes, VanderMeer said.
Once the older woman left, VanderMeer called her husband, who said he didn't know of a Cheryl and Jack Barnes, or anything about the truck described. The older woman never returned.
VanderMeer says she's called around on this woman and tried to verify parts of her story, but couldn't find anything. KTVB and the BBB also did the same and could not locate the couple's names, obituaries or anything else that matches the story.
It was really awkward that someone would come out of the blue, out of nowhere and offer you a car. That would be a red flag to me, said Robb Hicken, with the BBB.
The BBB says red flags in the story VanderMeer got are an overly complicated story, asking for cash, and an unknown person promising a gift that perhaps seems too good to be true.
Always ask the follow-up question: Why our organization? Why me? That kind of thing, Hicken said.
At this point, there are more questions than answers. The BBB would be interested if anyone else has had a similar instance happen or about any clues about the woman in the surveillance tape from the towing company.
We hope that this wasn't a scam, and if it is, other dealerships and other car shops need to beware. Just beware that this is out there, and it's happening, Hicken said.
That's why I contacted Channel 7 because I'm telling you: This little old lady had tears in her eyes and had me choked up. And somebody out there is going to give her cash, and I don't want that to happen. We need to figure out what's going on here and stop this, VanderMeer said.
Both the BBB and Boise Police applauded VanderMeer for asking questions and calling to report the possible fraudulent activity. As with any potential scam or if you're unsure of something, police want to hear from you and at least get some details.