/ 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.