About 40 Fort Payne High School students waited for their charter bus to go to Chattanooga for dinner before Saturday night's prom, but the bus from Charter Dispatch never showed.
Though the superintendent and parents came together to get a bus for the kids last minute, the problem with Charter Dispatch appears to stretch farther than Fort Payne.
Lawrence County High School Students found themselves stranded on prom night after their bus, also booked from Charter Dispatch, was a no-show.
"The big problem was we had 24 students waiting to go to prom and there’s no ride," said Lee Rogers, a victim of the scam. "So everybody piled in their trucks and cars and drove to the Shoals themselves. It was really disappointing."
Rogers paid about $1,800 up front for the charter bus, and says every time they called the company they were accommodating and helpful. Ever since prom night, their calls have gone unanswered.
Rogers has contacted an attorney and reported Charter Dispatch to the Better Business Bureaus of Nevada and Alabama. In the past, the BBB of Nevada gave the company an 'F' rating.
But you don't have to fall victim to these types of scams.
All licensed bus companies are issued a number by the U.S. Department of Transportation. When booking with a company, ask for that number. You can then look the DOT number up on the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association website. Also ask for proof of insurance coverage.
If you’re unsure which companies are in your area you can find a comprehensive list on the American Bus Association website.
“If they’re an ABA member in all likelihood they’re going to be a very top-notch company and one you can depend on," said Dan Ronan, a spokesman for the ABA.
The ABA requires members to follow strict safety guidelines and regular inspections.
You can search a company's records and ratings on the ABA website.
On the main page click “for travelers” then “bus/passenger carrier info." There you can type in your state and find area companies.
When it comes time for the transaction, don't pay it all up front.
"Work something out so you’re not putting all of the money up front and you’re not left holding the bag, as it appears these high school students were. It’s a terribly sad story," said Ronan.
It's the exact mistake the high school students' families made.
"It was really the only red flag, everything else seemed legitimate," said Rogers.
A good scam will look legitimate on the surface, but all it takes is a little time and research to make sure you don't get duped.
If you have a consumer problem call our Better Business Bureau WHNT News 19 Consumer Action Line at 256-850-0719 or toll free at 1-866-94-BBB-19.