A friend of mine stole several hundred dollars from me and disappeared. He was supposed to fix my car for inspection, but took the money and fan. I'm out over $2000, and I've spent 2 years trying to get back on my feet.
Hi, my name is X, and I was scammed by someone I believed to be a friend when I lost my job. I've been struggling to recover for over two years, and while I did make some progress for a while, I've lost my footing, and I'm at my wit's end now. I've never been one to ask for help, but I don't see that I have any other choice at this point. This has been going on for years, so I will try to make it as succinct as I'm capable of.
I bought a car at auction, not long before covid struck. At the time I was working as a line cook, and I'd sold my previous car a few years prior to settle some debts. This "new" car was supposed to be the first step to me getting myself back on my feet. I bought it sight unseen for $500, knowing only that it started and would go into drive. I've always done much of the work on my cars myself and, after taking it to a garage to get the bare minimum done to make it pass inspection so could drive it to work, I intended to make it a project car that I would fix up as money and time allowed. I named her Grace, because it was only by the Grace of God that I managed to drive her from Philly (the location of the auction) back home to Pittsburgh with a single working brake line.
Almost immediately after, quarantine restrictions struck, and I lost my job. I showed up to work one morning, and the door was locked. I called to owner, asking for someone to come let me in so that I could start warming up the kitchen for service, cause we still did take-out. He told me I'd been let go, and he forgot to notify me that I no longer worked there. After much convincing from my friends, I swallowed my pride and applied for unemployment. I was approved under a special program for restaurant workers, but it wasn't enough to make ends meet, so my meager savings began to dwindle. Throughout this time, I would send as many as 10 job applications a week in any field I could find, but most companies never even called or emailed me back.
I continued to work on Grace, but the garage I used to take my cars to no longer existed, so I asked my friends on Facebook for recommendations. I figured it would be easier to find a new job once I had a working car, so I made getting her inspected my main priority. One of my friends, who I'd known for years, said "Just bring her by my garage, and we'll get you sorted." I was a little out of the way, but I've always tried to support my friend's businesses when possible, and he promised to give me a discount, so I drove her out there.
He introduced me to the garage owner, and they took a look at Grace. They reported mostly good news. There was no rust on the frame, unheard of for a '95 in PA, with all our winter salting. Both the engine and transmission were in good shape, despite having over 200,000 miles. She needed a new alternator and other electrical work, as well as an entire brake system overhaul, but these we things I already suspected from my own tinkering. I was ecstatic that the repairs would be relatively simple and straight-forward, even if they did require some costly parts and a lot of labor. The garage owner told me they were doing this as a side gig, and a favor for my friend, so it wouldn't be a high priority. I said that was fine as I spent most of my time searching for jobs online, and had no where to go right now anyways.
Since it wasn't an official work order, the garage couldn't buy the parts on their ledger, so I wrote my friend a check for $350 that day to get the ball rolling. To be clear, I do believe my friend originally intended to do the work. I still have the brake lines in the trunk he bought with that money. He told me it would take about 2-3 weeks for the parts to arrive and all labor to be completed. I've had other garages take just as long for similar work before, so that was perfectly fine with me. I continued to apply for jobs, with no luck, as I waited to hear back. About two weeks later, he sent me a message.
He told me he lost a close friend to covid, and had to go to the funeral, and was grieving and took time off work, so the car would be delayed. I told him to take as much time as needed, since I still hadn't found a job yet, and didn't need the car at the moment anyways. I will skip ahead here, cause this went on for several months. There was always some new excuse, and he even told me he had started going to therapy. I do believe he was truly struggling and seeking help. Several months of this go by though, and the special unemployment program for restaurant workers is canceled, before most of us could actually go back to work.
I'd been giving him space since he told me he was seeking help with his mental health, and I didn't want to add any more pressure, but now I had to reach out to him and ask what was up. He said he'd gotten himself right, and had been working on Grace, and the work would be done by Wednesday. I had an automated payment that was coming up, which I couldn't stop, and my money was running out. He was giving me a really good deal (this probably should have been a red flag, but we'd known each other for a long time, and I trusted him), and I didn't want him to get screwed over because I ran out of money. He told me the car would be ready in two days, but I wasn't sure I'd still have the money I promised to pay him by then, so I venmo'd it to him, and that was the last I heard from him.
He just dropped off the map, and nobody knew what happened to him. I messaged a mutual friend and even got a suicide watch organization involved, cause I was truly worried about him. Not even the people in our circles who know him best knew what happened to him. I didn't have the garage owner's number, so I had no way to figure out what was going on with the car. During this whole ordeal, I was constantly under the impression that the car would soon be ready, so was paying insurance the entire time, until I ran out of money to make the payments. All in all, I lost about $2000. This doesn't include the cost of the car, or the money I spent getting it back from Philly, just everything I spent trying to get it repaired afterwards.
I did eventually find another job as a line cook, but I've been digging my way out of this hole ever since. I eventually tracked down the garage owner, and he had a shocking revelation for me; my friend had never officially worked at the garage. The owner just let him bring his project cars there to work on, and he would occasionally pitch in as extra labor. It was never in any way, shape, or form "his" garage, and he told me on the Facebook post. The owner was really understanding, and didn't charge me for storage, plus he found and threw the brake lines in the trunk. No work and been done on the car, and he said I didn't owe him anything because we both got screwed over, and he had no idea what had happened to my friend either, even though they lived in the same town and frequented the same social areas. He was just glad I'd managed to contact him, because he hadn't known what to do with it, and it was taking up a spot in his lot.
Once I had enough money from my new job, I took the car to a garage closer to where I live, and paid them another $1900 to do the bare minimum to get it to pass inspection. Since then, I've been trying to do as much as the work on my own as I can, but I've recently run into a snag. My town has weekly street cleanings, and the only place for us to park is on the street. Two weeks ago, I went to move Grace, so I wouldn't get a ticket, and she wouldn't start. No lights, no sounds, just dead. I tried to jump her with my mom's car, but still couldn't even get the dash lights to come on. I don't have my own multimeter to track down where the problem is, and no one responded when I asked if there was anyone I know who has one I could borrow, and I only have 80 cents to my name right now, so I can't buy my own.
This past week, I left a note out, and the police let me slide without ticketing me, but I already have a few unpaid parking tickets from before I got the initial work done. I also have no ability to pay for a tow, and made no money this past week because I spent 8 days putting down a new floor in my parent's kitchen and powder room (when I fell on hard times, my parents convinced me to move back in, and they don't charge me rent, so I do work around the house in exchange). I don't know how I'm going to avoid sliding further into debt at this point, and my insurance company has informed that if I start missing payments on my insurance, like I did when I sent my friend the last of my money, I might not be allowed to buy car insurance in this state again. I really feel stuck and I don't know what else to do at this point.
I want to be clear, I'm not asking for the initial cost of the car, or those incurred getting it back to Pittsburgh from Philly. Nor am I asking for the $1900 I spend to get her road worthy. All I am asking for is your help covering the amount my friend disappeared with. If you could spare even a little bit, it would go a long way to helping me stave off financial disaster, until I can get back on my feet again. Even if you can't to that, if you managed to sit through and read all of this, please, at least try to share it with someone who might have the means to pitch in.
Full transparency: I'm posting this on GoFundMe as well, in case someone prefers that platform, and to increase visibility.
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