Thursday, December 27, 2018
News 12 at 6 o'clock
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRWD/WAGT) -- A group of young girls is having to learn a very adult lesson after a scammer took them for almost $2,000. When investigators told them there wasn't much they could do, they turned to our I-Team's Meredith Anderson.
This whole thing started when American Heritage Girls troop GA-0514 saved up to buy a trailer for camping supplies, but it's also ending with an opportunity, of sorts.
"Whenever you come in, it's like instant family," said Megan Deraps. The 14-year-old is excited about starting work on a scrapbook for that family of forty. "We are making it from experiences in the past, like we've done in AHG, like camping," she said. "I think we have a canoe ride." AHG, or American Heritage Girls, is a Christian alternative to the Girl Scouts.
Megan's mother, Bonnie Deraps, is the troop leader. "We have girls ranging from 1st grade all the way up to our oldest girl is a senior in high school this year," she said. The girls earn badges through different frontiers. Meghan admits her troop has had to learn some lessons the hard way. "Not packing enough blankets because we've gone camping, and that's something that's happened," Megan laughed.
Here's a badge no one expected, though: crime victim. An incident report calls it "Theft by Deception - Felony."
It all started on eBay Motors or what the troop's treasurer thought was eBay Motors. The group needed an enclosed trailer for camping trips that could also serve as storage. Lauren Rodman thought she found the perfect one from a woman named Caroline White. "She explained how she had gotten it in a divorce; she no longer needed the trailer. She was selling it for pretty cheap," Rodman said. "It was well within our limits, and she just wanted to get rid of it because she was going on deployment, and she didn't want to pay storage on it while she was going on deployment."
Lauren said she did some checking to make sure it was legit, but she never saw any red flags. The troop gave her the green light. When it was all said and done, Lauren sent the soldier $1800 in gift cards.
"And then it turns out that trailer never even existed," Megan said.
Apparently, neither the soldier nor the listing existed. eBay's Fraud department said it was a "spoof," meaning someone made their own web page look exactly like the real thing. They confirmed, "Caroline White is also a fictitious name or account."
"It's pretty hard to tell the real from the fake when it comes to programs like eBay, even Amazon," said Gigi Turner with the Better Business Bureau. Turner tells our I-Team this kind of thing happens all the time. She warns if anyone ever asks you to buy a gift card to make a payment, run the other way.
"Wiring money is the same thing. Wiring money is even a bigger red flag than the gift card," Turner added.
Lauren said eBay was able to refund 5 dollars because that's all that was left on the card.
This is not exactly the type of thing that will end up in Megan's AHG scrapbook. "It's like, wow. Hurt, basically." However, for a group that works to teach young girls the skills they'll need later in life, it's a tough lesson that could help each one of these girls down the road.
"I feel like God's really going to bless us through all this," said Bonnie Deraps.
They wanted you to learn this lesson, too. They hope their warning can prevent this from happening to anyone else. Plus, it never hurts to put their scam story out there in the event any News 12 viewers have an old trailer they no longer need. You could also donate by clicking here or by going to Or gbce.net and click "give online." Make sure you specify "Budget Receipts" and type "American Heritage Girls" in the optional memo line.
If you have a daughter who might be interested in joining AHG, there are four troops in our area. Three are in Columbia County, and one is in Aiken. Click here to find a troop near you.
If there's not a troop convenient for you, click here to learn how to start your own.