The New Year has definitely taught me A LOT of tough lessons. Ones that I will never forget. More importantly, it taught me to let no one ever steal how hard I’ve worked to get here. Sadly though, someone almost succeeded in stealing my business.
The events below were four days of my life that I desperately wish I could get back, but I can’t. Instead, I’m ready to stand up, rise and fight this whilst letting others know through my story, through my vulnerability, how to avoid it at all cost. This ONE mistake, this costly lesson, does not and will not define me.
Only a handful of close friends and family know the whole story. Why do I choose to share it now? For three reasons. 1. That there are some horrible people in the world who deliberately do this to others and not feel the slightest emotion, 2. To make others aware that this can and will happen in business if you’re not paying attention and 3. Because I naturally want to protect my tribe of other entrepreneurs from experiencing what I did. If I help just one, I’ve accomplished my purpose.
Right before the New Year, I was contacted by a man out of state through my event website to plan an upcoming event on February 18. A wedding anniversary for he and his wife and 45 guests. Excited about this new business opportunity, I jumped right in. He sent me what he was looking for in terms of catering menus, colors, entertainment, venue selection, and I sent him my proposal. He had no qualms about paying me up front my full rate and paid me with two credit cards which processed smoothly through my Stripe account. One was for my fee, the remaining balance to be used for me to pay out vendors on his behalf. Not uncommon when you’re in the event industry.
The day the money was deposited into my account from Stripe, I was asked to make one deposit into a Wells Fargo account for the transportation service. The client provided me with the name, company and the account number. When I verified with Wells Fargo the information was accurate, I proceeded with the deposit.
Two days later, I received a random call from a woman in California claiming that the credit card charge was on her stolen credit card. The card was still in her possession. My world was rocked upside down. If you attended my anniversay lunch on January 6, this was just 2 days before I was to get up in front of a crowded room, award my grant and BE the inspiration.
You can imagine the panic in my eyes and in my heart when I heard that. It was as if a ton of bricks just fell on me. I assured her I had no idea and immediately took action to rectify the situation refunding the fee he had given me and reporting it as a fraud. Then, contacted the “said” client and told him I was reporting everything to the authorities and no longer communicating with him due to this activity I was now fully aware of. He never responded after.
This woman was my saving grace, my angel. Without her, I would never have known until I was much further in to helping this “thief” act out his plan. She should have never called me, but she did instead of her bank. She saved me from a much bigger world of trouble and hurt.
I called Wells Fargo about the deposit I had made just a couple days prior and was given no help, just the advice to file a police report.
I called MasterCard regarding the other charge and spoke to their customer service department who were shocked to hear that I was calling to protect the cardholder and start an investigation for fraud, willing to provide all the information I had to aid their department.
I called my bank. Secret Service. Stripe. Even went into a Wells Fargo Branch to see if a flag could be put on this account noting that funds were “stolen,” which it now has on it. Thankfully, but still not out of the water yet. Their process to actually close or freeze an account is quite daunting. Even the Secret Service cannot get through.
I had a heart to heart with my husband about the situation and shared that unless MasterCard settled the dispute in my favor, which I filed last Friday and am waiting on response in April (50 pages of hard evidence), I could potentially be liable for the $3,500 that now sits in this Wells Fargo account ready for the “thief” to grab.
Sean’s knee jerk reaction to all this? “GET OUT OF BUSINESS!” I don’t think he really meant that, but boy, did it hurt like hell to hear and kept me “stuck.”
You know what? I just about did get out of business. I found myself spiraling down this deep dark hole wondering if I was cut out to be in business. Questioning everything – why had I let this jerk do this to me? How could I be so naive to be taken advantage of? How was I going to repay this debt if found liable, even though I knew I wasn’t? Why wasn’t anyone willing to help me fix this?
Endless, surmountable questions. Not to mention, feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and alone.
To say this whole incident has made me sick is really putting it lightly. It stole my month. Took time away from enjoying activities with family. In fact, I found out I was liable for this money and had to pay it, until proven innocent, while sitting at Disney on Ice with my daughter Ellie. Can you imagine trying to remain upbeat while watching Disney on Ice? IT’S HARD!
I even dropped 5 pounds which I highly do not recommend!
I was violated, preyed upon and now left holding the bag while those responsible for scamming me continue to get away with this “profession” of theirs. It’s completely and utterly disgusting.
BUT! A twist.
I have really good people in my life. My friends. My entrepreneurial tribe within my Gals’ Inspiration Hub. My family who picked me back up and pushed me back out and said “NO, you don’t get to quit!”
An accountability partner that ROCKS and told me in her words, “Tish, DON’T let that a**hole steal what you’ve worked so hard to create. Look at all the people you help and inspire every day. How would they feel if you gave up? Look at what you’ve already accomplished. YES, it sucks! He may have stolen your money and it’s going to be a long process, but use this as your driving force to prove to him he didn’t steal you in the process! Money is just money. YOU will get it back and more.”
I just love that girl. I needed it. No sugarcoating. Just strong words of encouragement to get me to stop throwing that pity party, put my big girl panties on and DO THIS with EVERYTHING I’VE GOT!
Moral of my story?
We will all go through things, unfortunate as they may be, but we will always get past them. We do not stay stuck forever. If we did, we would never move forward to do what we were meant to do and life would pass us by.
Life is definitely not easy and yes, some lessons are a lot harder to swallow than others. We all make mistakes. It’s our choice to not let our mistakes define us, but instead pick us back up, make us stronger and more prepared for what lies ahead.
Is this a “mess?” YES, but it also a message I personally needed you to hear and spread. Thank you for reading it. 💗