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Scammers targeting Utah nail salons with $100 bill change scam

Posted at 5:38 PM, Mar 07, 2023

DRAPER, Utah — Tam Le and her parents, the owners of U.S. Nails in Draper, were almost victims of a state-wide nail salon scam.

"They said that they wanted an eyebrow wax and my mom said 'OK that'll be 10 dollars.' They handed her a hundred-dollar bill, she gave them back 90," Le said.

The scammers then said they no longer wanted the service done and requested their $100 bill back, but they attempted to keep some of the change previously given.

"My mom said 'No, you need to give me all the change back for you to get your 100 back,' and they said 'Here's your money' and they only gave her 50 dollars back," Le recalled.

Le's mom said again firmly they needed to give all the change back to get their $100 back.

"She just threw it at us and was like, 'Here's your money back,'" Le said.

Le's family avoided the scam, but other salons across the state and region haven't been as lucky. Tammy Luu, the vice president of the Vietnamese American Community of Utah, said more than 50 salons in Utah were targeted by the individuals in just three days last week. Salons across California and Nevada have also reached out to Luu saying they have been targeted in the past as well. Luu says on average, salons are losing $40 from this scam.

"Right now, it's winter, it's slower season for a lot of salons, so right now any money, any amount is important to support their family," Luu said.

Le is grateful the scam did not impact her store, but she says it can have a large impact on the entire nail salon community.

"Forty dollars may not be a big deal to some people, but when it's every few salons or every few salons put together, it's a lot of money," Le said.

Luu and Le think nail salons may be targeted because most owners and employees are Asian-American.

"They know Asians are more timid and more conservative," Luu said.

Le said the language barrier can also make nail salons more vulnerable.

"Not a lot of people are able to speak good English so not a lot of people want to go through the hassle of calling the police and making a report," Le said.

Luu says there are measures all service businesses should take to prevent scams.

"Try not to have people prepay, have them wait and just pay when it's their turn, have them wait while you count all the money, having a camera outside so you can catch their license plate also helps," Luu advised.

Police advise business owners that if they are suspicious of a cash-based scam, it's best to call another employee over to count the money while another person calls the police to report trespassing.