/ Scams

I fell for a fake Clarks advert, now I want to warn others

Derek may have ‘only’ lost £29.93 to a fake Clarks advert on Facebook, but all scams take their toll, and these numbers add up. Here, he describes his experience.

This is a guest post by Derek, a member of the public. All views expressed are Derek’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Last month, I unfortunately joined the long list of commenters on Which? Conversation’s Clarks Shoes fake Facebook advert warning – I’d seen a Facebook Marketplace advert for ‘Clarks Outlet’ in December 2020.

Outlet stores were made famous in the USA for disposing of good quality, branded end-of-season products at heavily discounted prices. That was enough for me to believe that the advert, and the price, were genuine. Later I’d found out that, unfortunately, I’d fallen for a fake advert.

Make Which? aware of a scam with its new scam sharer tool

Suspect currency conversions

I spent £29 on my Mastercard on what I thought was a pair of Clarks shoes from the Clarks Outlet. The order was never acknowledged, the payment was, but that email didn’t come from the Clarks Outlet; it came from a company based in France, which told me that the amount charged may vary from my £29 purchase instruction due to ‘currency conversion’. At this stage no company name, other than the presumed French payment-receiving-agent, had been admitted.

Alarm bells were ringing at this stage, and my credit card statement now showed a charge of £29.93 as a USD conversion. It took a while before a tracking document arrived, which did appear to be from a genuine tracking agency. However, it showed that after an initial one week delay, my order had arrived at an airport in China, and then after a further week’s delay, it had moved to Hong Kong.

And then, like so many others, I eventually received a tiny carton (way too small for a pair of shoes) via Royal Mail and showing the tracking number I’d been given for my shoe order. But, it contained a likely-fake pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, shipped from Guangzhou, China.

Recovering my money

I asked my bank’s fraud team to investigate and recover my £29.93, but had limited faith in its energy and ability to do the right thing. However, to my surprise, the payment was frozen and it does now appear that they’ve managed to prevent the fraudulent transaction from going through.

Guide: how to get your money back after a scam

£29 may be a small amount to some people, but to others it can be huge – sometimes the difference between being able to pay the bills. I’m glad it was stopped (i.e. frozen so far), but I want to help warn others that just because an advert might be from a brand that you know and trust, you might not know “who’s really placed this ad there”.

Sadly many social media sites do not appear to offer any route for conned customers like me to be able to report these fraudsters, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to help get the word out. I’d like to see Facebook and others do far more to prevent these fake adverts from appearing in the first place, let alone prevent other innocent people from falling victim.

And when real people discover that they’ve been conned–as I was on this fake Facebook Marketplace advertisement, Facebook should make it possible (rather than impossible) to be able to feed news of these scams straight back to them via an auditable Facebook fraud-reporting process.

Hopefully my story, however small, can help others, and prevent small sums like £29.93 from adding up.

This was a guest post by Derek, a member of the public. All views expressed were Derek’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.


Comments

I have searched Facebook several times to try and find one of these scam sellers, but have been unable to identify one so far. If anyone would like to post a Facebook link, Which? will hold it for review then direct it to a safe page.

I have checked the actual websites of the scammers that have been posted on Which?, and they all have a few things in common:
– 60-80% sale banner across the top
– much too-good-to-be-true prices
– bad English grammar
– a reference to China in the T&Cs
No contact information

Derek, I have posted a guide with useful sites that I hope will help you avoid getting scammed in the future.
https://conversation.which.co.uk/scams/citizens-advice-pandemic-scams/#comment-1621694

Peter says:
1 April 2021

They are very good, I was down £60 over a year ago so it is still doing the rounds. Eventually got my money back but the fake Hermes scarf that they sent instead of shoes had to be returned to China before the credit card fraud team could settle reclaim.

Thanks for posting about this scam, Derek. At least you have not lost much, unlike the victims of some scams.

I have never bought anything advertised on social media and thanks to the many posts like yours I do not intend to. Facebook is a very efficient way of spreading information so there seems plenty of opportunity to warn other users about these scams.

Beware of unsolicited phone calls from Amazon Prime – either inviting you to join, or ‘would you like to cancel’. I nearly fell for the latter- it was terrifying!

Pauline jones says:
1 April 2021

I had exactly the same call. I just put the phone down

I get these calls almost daily. I just put the phone down. The trouble with these calls is they make me suspicious of EVERYTHING, even the genuine calls.

Why people send sensitive data like card details to someone they have no clue about beats me. Apart from why one should trust anything placed on social media, much publicised as a source of scams and disinformation.

We all should take care in what we do with our money, including checking out who we give it to. Relying on the banks to give us our money back when we have behaved less than responsibly is a recipe for increased charges on everyone, including the responsible majority. It also will inevitably lead to more careless behaviour if there is the reassurance of compensation.

If I want to buy from a seller on eBay I pay by PayPal because I have no idea what card security the seller has in place. PayPal is often the only option and I don’t keep much in my PayPal account. It seems foolhardy to give card details to a company or individual you have never heard of.

Although PayPal will investigate complaints there is no guaranteed compensation mechanism such as s.75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 because it is merely a money exchange facility and not a credit card issuer.

I am making small payments, well below the £100 minimum for compensation under S75. When paying by debit or credit card there is the opportunity to make a chargeback claim but no guarantee that it will be successful.

So far I have received everything I have ordered over more than ten years and using PayPal has avoided the need to give out my card details.

Not everyone thinks like you do, Wavechange, so I thought a warning might be in the public interest.

Carry on commenting, John. Although I have done so in other discussions I should have said that I use PayPal to pay for small items.

I think the key is that you are careful about where you buy from. That is an approach we need to cultivate in others. alfa has made a useful contribution in that regard and I think we need more contributions of that kind that actually help others.

One way of avoiding problems is to buy from established companies that are either based in the UK or have a presence in the UK. When I buy odds & ends from eBay sellers I avoid buying goods from overseas sellers or UK sellers when the goods are in China etc.

I have only used Clarks shops in the past but when I did not want to go into their shop during the pandemic I ordered from their website and received what I ordered. With the increase in the amount of fraud I check carefully to make sure I am looking at the genuine website.

Paypal has a rating of 1.2 on Trustpilot and I stopped using them years ago when I had problems with them.
https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/www.paypal.co.uk

I may be wrong, but I thought credit card payments on ebay do not go directly through the seller but rather through an arrangement ebay has with PayPal.

I hope you are right, Alfa. More companies do seem to be accepting cards on eBay but often PayPal has been the only alternative for me.

That’s interesting, Alfa. I have never used e-Bay and have very rarely looked at it.

If the customer using a credit card first pays e-Bay and then e-Bay pays Visa or Mastercard, do the s.75 protections still apply? And does it matter whether the payment lands in a different jurisdiction?

Perhaps Which? could find out and let us know.

Malcolm R you sound supremely confident that you would never fall foul of the fraudsters; one of the ‘responsible majority’. I applaud Derek for sharing his experience for the good of others. I wouldn’t say that he’d acted ‘less than responsibly’ or ‘carelessly’. You could be kinder.

NEVER buy anything from a Facebook ad!

I agree it is good that Derek (no, another one, not me!) has shared his experience.

But hasn’t he done that partly to warn all of us to take more care and responsibility when internet shopping?

Derek was lucky. His bank and/or Mastercard were able to freeze the transaction, so presumably he got his money back.

Like Derek, I’d also like to see Facebook (and other internet services) taking more responsibility for not profiting from scams and the sale of substandard goods.

Until then, I will NEVER buy anything from a Facebook ad.

Denize, not so. I am not claiming that. I also sympathise with people who lose money to criminals. What I am pointing out is that fraud requires a fraudster and someone who falls for a fraud. I want to see people made more aware of frauds than is currently done so they have more awareness of what to look out for. The Clarks Outlet scam has been widely publicised here for many months, but clearly not widely enough.

We all have to take some responsibility for our actions. We should not rely on someone else bailing us out, unless they have been complicit in the fraud or scam.

The fraudsters are clever and will continue to find new ways of tricking some people into parting with their money. That will never change. We will not catch many of them. So, in my view, we need to attack the problem from the consumer end by gradually making them much more aware of scam techniques and persuade them to be more circumspect when dealing on the internet. It is a dangerous place so playing safe, following guidance as alfa has given for example, is the best way to protect yourself.

Frances Bell says:
1 April 2021

I don’t use PayPal since the time I had a refund due from Virgin rail for a very late train. I had bought the ticket with my regular credit card but Virgin sent the refund to Paypal. Paypal refused to give it to me and said I was a criminal trying to steal someone else’s money. It said the money was owed to [myname]@gmail.com (true) but they had me as [myname]@googlemail.com
I talked to PayPal on the phone locally and at their headquarters to say everyone knew that gmail was originally googlemail and the two email names couldn’t be different people but they denied this and persisted in saying I was a crook attempting to commit a crime. My phone bills were overtaking the amount I was owed and so I dropped it.

John says:
1 April 2021

You would think an insurance company would be “safe”. I took out insurance for my van. I paid in full on my debit card.
On checking my bank statement I noticed a payment in the same location as the insurance agent. £420 had been spent on tools. I rang the bank and was refunded in full a couple of days later. It could have been the lad who took my card details but could easily be someone listening in on phone calls! Be careful out there.

MarM says:
2 April 2021

Virgin rail had no right to send a refund to PayPal – unless that was the original method of payment you used. PayPal usually works fairly well provided all details in your account are up to date and verified. You can complain about/appeal their decisions using their own system and if that fails, refer to the Financial Ombudsman.

I have bought many things off ebay over the years and quite recently, I have never actually seen a way to pay by credit card directly – maybe it is only available for certain sellers? But I am happy enough to use paypal, and I use them for many websites/online retailers (eg Boots.com) rather than give my credit card details to many different companies.
I do not keep any balance in my paypal account, and everything is simply charged to my credit card or refunded (in the case of a return) to my credit card by Paypal.

I did have a problem around 12 years ago – I placed an order with an online retailer on their own website and payed via paypal. I never received the items, and the company did not respond to email or answer the phone.
I raised a dispute with Paypal who found in my favour, BUT they said they could not refund me (around £350) as the retailer had a zero balance in their account, so Paypal could not access their funds.
I then raised a dispute via my credit card, Visa under s75. I forwarded them all the details and correspondence with Paypal. Visa refunded me immediately.
Paypal then contacted me an asked if I had raised a dispute with Visa – I said “yes” and gave them the reference of my case raised already with Paypal. I never heard anything more about it.
I don’t know if Paypal’s “buyer protection” has changed since that time, whereby they will actually refund you even if the seller has disappeared, but I had no difficulty making a claim via Visa.

It seems that more small eBay sellers are accepting cards. In the past, PayPal has been the only option for sellers I have used. Several people have mentioned getting money back from PayPal in recent posts.

Well done for getting your money back. So far I have not made a chargeback, S75 or PayPal claim.

I use Fakebook now and again for the purpose of keeping up with distant family and friends.

I really don’t like the way it sticks unsolicited mail in form of adverts into my news feed.

But I’ve just discovered that I can use a Firefox browser extension called “Ad Blocker for Facebook” to suppress that behaviour.

Mr M Cross says:
28 March 2021

Don’t buy anything On Line – the whole set-up is open to fraud – including banking Apps etc.

This is a decent and fairly comprehensive guide https://guides.which.co.uk/protect-yourself-from-scams-mkuzk9s6f0dt/glossary-amf526m65wr7 ” and should maybe be made available to many more people, for example from banks and through social media. I think those who read it properly will be those who are generally aware of the problems out there; those who really should read it may not. For one, it is, quite rightly, lengthy. For another, remembering it when faced with a particular scam variation may be difficult.

It would, I think, benefit from a headline summary. But my key message would be to simply play safe and, unless you are really sure you understand what you are doing, don’t do it until you have thoroughly checked it out carefully.

I find that looking up the URL will give a clue as to whether the CO. is genuine and GOOGLE the CO. will also give a URL. CHECK BEFORE BUYING is my motto!

Antony Jones says:
1 April 2021

I got taken in for an add that promised a full tool kit for £29.99 which was converted to US $. The delivery time was as promised but I only received a 10mm spanner which had been shipped from China. Luckily PayPal were able to secure a full refund. Face book is full of these scams yet they seem to do nothing to stop it

Heather Davies says:
1 April 2021

Before buying anything from an on-line advert for a company I have never dealt with before I always check Trustpilot or other reviews on Google.

A G Carroll says:
1 April 2021

This scam calling is production line stuff…Bring some relief to their boring days by stringing them along… First give them a false name and wait for them to check your ‘account’ ..Amazingly they find an account under that ‘name’ so now it’s time to explain that your device has power problems and you can’t get on line… now it’s time to suggest they take your details over the ‘phone, and the full (made up)
Sort Code, Acct. number etc. can be divulged. Scam he Scammers ! I’m getting so good that I hope to join their team soon….. Perhaps I should get out more….

Rusty Moskvitch says:
1 April 2021

I know people who have been scammed through ads on social media. I would NEVER even think about buying anything I saw advertised in this way. If the item was something I really wanted I would find other ways to buy it through a reputable outlet and preferably one I could visit and inspect / collect the item.

Stan says:
1 April 2021

I would never trust anything on any social media site, they are really only there for very sad lonely people.

I think that is a bit unfair Stan. Many people are lonely through no fault of their own, and during the recent lockdowns most have been deprived of the opportunity to go shopping and look for bargains in the sales or at the markets. While I share your view on the risks of shopping on social media sites, I am in no doubt that many people have found it very agreeable to commune with others that way.

The fraudulent sellers should be the target of your criticism, not the people who have been mercilessly deceived.

CHRISTABEL COWLEY says:
1 April 2021

I have also had problems with a scam, I ordered a cat swing basket from an advert on Facebook, nothing has arrived but the scammer took money from my account which my building society very kindly refunded and they have also have put a stop on any further payments, again from France. I am in very poor health and elderly and this is so upsetting apart from lack of trust on buying anything now online.

Christabel, I shop extensively online. However, I NEVER buy from anything or anyone on Facebook.

Linda Roberts says:
2 April 2021

I had a phone call to do with messages on my answerphone no mention of BT but to listen to message press1 but no message at all just keeps repeating

Linda- later you MIGHT see on your bill that when you pressed 1 you were connected to a Premium phone line. This was a common feature of scam call 5-10 years ago. You should NEVER do anything to respond to these calls.

Keith Johnson says:
3 April 2021

Never buy anything off facebook as the majority of them are crooked the biggest problem is people not taking enough notice they see something and it is just click click click! without bothering to check and the criminals know this it is really easy money for them. The answer is the check everything out very carefully and take your time in deciding it is usually pretty easy to spot a scam if you take proper care instead off rushing at everything

100% agree Keith and there is a link at the top of this page with some suggestions for checking out sellers and websites.

Peter Gaydon says:
4 April 2021

Derek’s experience was identical to mine in most respects. I bought some shoes advertised by Ecco (on Facebook), and paid about £45 by Amex credit card. Exactly the same things happened as Derek has outlined, and I even received several emails ‘updating’ me on the delivery. I eventually received some dodgy ‘Burberry’ socks !!
I made a claim to AMEX who refunded me the money.

Jeanette says:
5 April 2021

I also ordered shoes from this site but when I got to the payment page and started to enter my details I became suspicious. I did not go any further with the order. However the following day my bank contacted me about suspicious activity on my account. Even though I hadn’t completed the transaction the still tried to take the money. Thankfully my bank stopped the payment, cancelled the card and issued a new one

In a real shop you and the seller are present and you can see what you are buying and take it away. On line you neither see the seller nor the goods and there is an element of trust between you. He/she trusts you to pay and you trust that what you buy is what you wanted and that it is delivered. Scammers use this gap between seller and purchaser to their advantage either to fake the goods on sale or extract the money for them without delivery. Amazon have realised that to be successful they have to show that few customers are cheated and so the satisfied clients come back and use them again. Likewise the other big players who also have a High Street presence. Although Amazon can upset people when a few of their millions sub contractors fail to obey the rules and Amazon, itself, fails to vet the dangerous and fake goods on sale, most of us continue to use it regularly without issue. It is also successful because the purchase process is simple and easy. Grumbles about tax evasion don’t get in the way of sales. Ethics seem to be of secondary importance in this retail world. Some are rightly upset about this -but not that many stop buying from them.
The trouble with on line shopping is that one can buy almost anything from almost anywhere at almost any time. There are guidelines that a cautious shopper should follow, but scammers still operate successfully and it is not always the innocent and click free people that get caught. The more and wider one shops the more and wider the risk is taken. If the big umbrella companies don’t protect against their shark contributors one can get caught, as shown in the introduction to this topic, by trusting the umbrella company and ignoring the shark until it is too late. Then there is the hassle of getting the umbrella company to refund the scam and the hope that the shark is caught and banished from the site. It is too easy to advertise fake and non-existent things for sale and too easy to evade detection, capture and punishment for doing so. That is not about to change especially when these sins are overlooked by the country they are committed in and the technical ability to find these thieves is less than their ability to mutate and carry on.

I suspect that if the “umbrella” companies were made responsible for the products they promote, under the protection of a “market place”, we would see a dramatic clean up of the dangerous and scam product problem. My view is that any company that profits directly from each sale, by fees from the vendor for example, and/or facilitates sales by charging for stocking, providing warehousing space, giving payment facilities, despatch and delivery, has a liability for the integrity of what they promote.

This is not the same as advertising. If they wish to help suppliers by allowing them to advertise on their site, and charge just for that, and emphasise that they have no responsibility for the credentials of either the advertiser or their products, then that is just buyer beware. But they don’t.

Yes Malcolm -nail on head as usual.

I find hat on head is more useful in today’s weather.

[Sorry, I have been distracted by a Two Ronnies video, you see it’s Ronny Nodes weather today].