/ Money

Scam watch: scammer persuaded me to pay £2,600 upfront for a caravan

A Which? member came to us for advice after a scammer convinced him to pay £2,600 up-front for a caravan that never materialised…

Which? member Jim Morris told us: ‘While searching online for a second-hand caravan, I found one advertised for £2,600 on caravansforsale.co.uk.

‘The seller was based in The Netherlands, but would travel with it to my home. He told me about an ‘eBay Protection Program’ and sent a link to a legitimate-looking eBay page with instructions on how to transfer the money. I then authorised a bank transfer for £2,600 into what I thought was an escrow account.

‘On the agreed delivery day, he told me his car had broken down. He sent photos of the underside of the car and organised a new delivery date for after it had been repaired. I heard nothing from him after that, despite repeated attempts to contact him.

‘eBay confirmed that the link sent to me was not an official one. My bank said it was too late to recover the money. I’ve reported the incident to the police and Action Fraud.’

Our advice on dodgy online dealers

If a seller tries to get you to complete a bank transfer or an offline payment, it’s often a scam.

In this case the transaction was via a direct bank transfer, which makes it difficult to recover the transferred funds. An escrow account can be used to securely transfer funds in situations like these, but you should set it up yourself to ensure it’s legitimate.

eBay does have a Vehicle Protection Program in place, but this is only for transactions completed on its website. We’d never recommend paying for a vehicle without first checking it for defects in person.

This member correctly alerted all of the necessary authorities to this dodgy dealer.

Keeping yourself safe from online scammers isn’t easy, and that’s why our scams campaign is calling for the Government and businesses to do more to protect us from scams.

Have you come across any dodgy online sellers? Let us know what happened and what you did about it.

Comments
Member

It’s a sad state of affairs when through the malevolent action of a few, all trust is removed from the many but that s the reality of buying online from a complete stranger without adequate protection. My brother sold a caravan through eBay recently and as far as I can tell everything went through without hitch.

Online selling, unless you buy from a reputable outlet, is fraught with deception and you need to have a degree in law, or the patience , or both to be able to understand the terminology contained in some of the T&C’s.

I am still smarting a little from the £1,500 holiday that never materialised by being unable to travel through deep snow to the airport which was not included under the terms of the Insurance orTravel Co’s T&C’s as it was considered an “Act of God”. It was at the start of the Egyptian Uprising and so I eventually consoled myself with the fact that maybe God was working in my own interests at the time 🙂

Member

I’m not at all sure how you can protect someone from buying something they have never examined, from someone they don’t know, in another country and making a direct payment to their arranged account. No precautions taken, in my view; all done by believing what an unknown person has said. Just a classic case of a con, fraud, or theft, whatever you like to call it. Years ago my Dad got his fingers burnt; he wanted a car port, found someone in the local paper, paid £200 up front and never heard any more. Many of us have had expensive lessons; maybe it is the only way to learn – usually once is enough.

Member

Am I stuck in a time warp? Or is this yet another topic on scamming and conning? Just what we need, really, since no one’s said anything about it before.

The example quoted broke the most fundamental rule: never, ever make any payment upfront without setting it up yourself through a solicitor or through your own bank and never, ever, follow a link in an email some helpful person whom you’ve never met in your life sends you. And try not to give a thousand pounds to anyone who knocks at your door wearing a wig, false nose, sunglasses, nylon beard and sporting a wooden leg.

In terms of dodgy online sellers, the only ones who provided a challenge were a company called Premier Slate (trading as Keybee Enterprises, now trading as Quality Slate Signs) situated ostensibly at Unit 4, The Quarry, Pentrebach Road RCT CF37 4BW. You can print these details since all the facts I will give can be verified and are substantiated by Paypal among others.

Essentially the company takes money for custom-made house signs in slate. They fail to deliver when promised, they refuse to answer emails or letters, they attempt to fraudulently change the contractually agreed terms without notice or reference and even PayPal was unable to get them to acknowledge the missive they sent. The reviews page at reviewcentre . com / Online-Home-and-Garden-DIY-Stores / Premier -Slate – www – premierslate – co – uk – reviews provides endless hours of amusement, as you browse story after story of dishonest dealings, interspersed with some clearly fraudulent entries praising them to the skies.

Because they appeared to have a landline ‘phone, and because they gave a physical address and were covered by PayPal we ordered a sign. When nothing materialised within 30 days, I gave them seven days to deliver, which they failed even to acknowledge. Following a quick consultation with Which? Legal (worth every penny, folks) I chased up Paypal. Two days later, the sign arrived, but of the wrong dimensions, the wrong material, and poor quality. I returned to PayPal who, after some deliberation, agreed to recharge them and refunded me the money. As they never asked for their sign back, we now have a free sign.

However, Trading Standards were utterly useless. If there’s one area that Which? needs to concentrate its resources it’s on Trading Standards, and their utter inability to do their job effectively. It’s a mystery to me why this firm continues trading, although it changes its name each time it rains, but TS ought to have acted. They’d make a pretty good case study for Which? as well, although I suspect their details will get removed from this post.

Member
dieseltaylor says:
24 August 2016

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2346674/Apprentice-Alex-grave-allegations-really-raise-guybrows-TV-hopeful-condemned-furious-customers-hoodwinked-tombstone-business.html

There are more complaints at :
complaintsboard.com/complaints/prestige-slate-premier-slate-conmen-setup-in-new-name-c630560.html

Sometimes, no more than once a week, I think Which? could provide an index of all these on-line site where this company has appeared. It might also note the company officers or link to the Companies House site.

I would strongly suggest readers write to Companies House to object to the removal of information before the 20 year current standard. Apparently they were thinking of six years for dissolved companies like Premier Slate/Prestige Slate. I think the records should stay – we need to know who the Directors were.
enquiries-at- companieshouse.gov.uk

Member

I, too, don’t know why we have repetitions of the same topics, unless something really new or novel warrants it. Perhaps we are in the silly season.

I agree about trading standards, after a useless non-exchange with Peterborough TS, National Trading Standards, Chartered TS Institute, and lack of effective help from Citizens Advice (why change their name?). Out of frustration I have asked my MP about the current situation, lack of communication with TS, who has raised it with Greg Clark. Bad timing, as they’ll all be in the sun, but if I don’t hear I’ll follow it up; my MP is pretty helpful.

I would like to see direct communication – both ways – with local trading standards, proper coordination on national issues through National TS, visibility to us all of problem products and companies, without the involvement of an unnecessary, probably overloaded third party like CA who seemingly are very limited in what they can do. I’d rather pay National TS to employ people to deal with complaints; it requires expertise and I’m sure there are enough of them to require quite a few full time jobs.

Member

Great, and well spotted, DT. I suppose it doesn’t surprise me that he’s a reality TV show contestant, now.

Member

Perhaps this typifies the kind of apprentice A S wants. No doubt they would have looked into his background first? When people take money from you they should go to prison. I would if I stole off my neighbour, but it seems not to happen in business. Perhaps we don’t have enough cells?

Member

I also had a sense of déjà vu all over again with this item but where I have I seen it before? Was it in the magazine? A previous Conversation? A TV programme? Very odd.

I was also amused by Beryl’s tale of her brother’s sale of a caravan that went without a hitch; that’s remarkable.

I feel sorry for Jim Morris. I expect he has now had all the “you should have . . . ” advice he can stomach so I won’t add to his woes but it was brave of him to share his story with us.

Member

He was on the The Apprentice in Summer 2013. He didn’t win and wasn’t the runner up but seemed to have survived for weeks before being fired. Who knows where he’s ended up now? – still raising eyebrows no doubt.

Member

Looks like the Trading Standards department gave him a weak reprimand under the Enterprise Act instead of charging him with taking money under false pretences, breach of contract, fraudulent trading, etc.

Banging them up in a cell at our expense is not the answer for slippery eels like that – they should be made to repay their debt to society in a meaningful way. Maybe a few weeks in clink to learn a lesson the hard way but then some punishment.

Member

Must have been a static caravan?
I wonder why Which? ran Jim’s tale of woe if they didn’t expect “sound advice”?

Member

He’s now selling insurance – for bikes.

Member

Then he could start again with a clean slate.

Member

Ian – This looks like another one of your ‘unhinged threads’.

My references to Alex Mills [the dodgy slate sign seller] could be misconstrued as applying to Jim Morris, the thwarted caravan purchaser. No such aspersions were intended and I apologise if my comments have given that impression. It’s all to do with the non-consequential order of the replies.

Member

Beryl said it all in the first post . In the old days , you had the “crafty Cockney ” selling you dodgy goods and the equivalent in most cities in the UK . But at least you were standing in front of him as he stood on a platform with a table of goods in front of him or on a stall in a market you could always tell him what you thought of your purchase and get a refund . Now its like the “Three card trick ” I witnessed in a London street -now you see it -now you dont ,and dont kick up as fuss as a “heavy ” was standing by the folding table that folded up as soon as a Bobby appeared . I stood watching one and because I wasnt taking part I was “forced ” to move on (in case I figured out the trick) Now in 2016 its easy peasy to con people due in part to the governments openness to businesses by reducing the publics ability to prosecute business rogues by introducing the same -three card trick legislation – con the public into thinking all business people are angels of God and would never do you wrong . its the 12 th of August permanently and the shooting season is here and we are all pheasants or should I say treated like peasants ?

Member

This was an individual who defrauded Jim Morris, not a big business.

Member

I think we already know there are loads of scams around. What is Which? doing about it ? What plans does Which? have to do about it. Maybe start a convo asking for suggestions on what can be done.

I see government organisations doing a fair bit online to warn people . But typically they’re already followed by the scam aware, it’s those not aware that need to be targeted.
Remember Police 5 with Shaw Taylor, time it was dusted off and used to highlight scams. 5 mins, once a week on every possible channel and in cinemas too. Easy, just get the government to pass a law to make it happen.

Maybe you should publish a best practice for companies to adopt online to help get the message out that there are scams about. I’ve tried educating companies but sadly they don’t listen, leaving their customer open to fraud.

Member

My police run an email alert service where they not only report crimes and convictions in the area but also pass on information about current scams, how they are attempted to be perpetrated and precautions to take. I don’t know what other forces do this but it is a very useful service. Easy to forward on to family and friends – which we do. The latest one concerns “Money Mules” – essentially inadvertently (or otherwise) helping to money launder.

Member

My local Trading Standards publish a weekly newsletter including things to watch out for. Normally I know about more scams than they seem too 🙁

These email services don’t help many elderly who don’t have access to the internet or even use smart phones/tablets. My approach is aimed at covering that. As I bet alot will watch TV.

Member

william, I do know many people – not only the elderly – do not have access to the internet. I was pointing out a useful service to those many that do have access. That service is another weapon in the armoury, not to the detriment of others. I am sure other suggestions will add to the spreading of information.