/ Shopping

Dodgy Lego site disappears after taking orders

We’re all shopping online more during the pandemic, so it’s important we’re vigilant of scams and fakes. Have you spotted any suspicious websites lately?

Bigger brands can be easy targets for fraud, so always be on your guard when you see cheap prices for popular items.

In some cases you’ll be paying for counterfeit goods while other sites simply list non-existent bargains before disappearing with your money.

Suspicious websites

Topwhs.com (which was created on 26 March 2020) claimed to have warehouse clearance prices for Lego, using the Danish company’s branding and images.

We heard from recent customer Ian, who ordered three Lego sets and received confirmation via email telling him that payment would come from ‘Peachshadow’.

A tracking number which originated in China followed soon after but, a few weeks later, a small jiffy bag was pushed through the letterbox containing a black scarf in a plastic bag. No sign of the Lego.

We’ve recently had similar reports of people receiving scarves instead of Clarks shoes after clicking through on scam Facebook ads.

The company initially apologised for the mistake and asked for photographs of the package, its contents and the tracking number. Ian sent them all three but has heard nothing since.

Getting a refund via his bank – using chargeback – initially proved worthless as his credit card provider told him he must send the scarf back to China at his own expense (a whopping £25) under scheme rules.

Ian explained that he had requested a returns address or a pre-paid returns label from Topwhs.com with no response. If the company does reply with a returns address, he may have to pay to return the item.

Topwhs.com has not responded to our request for comment, and now the site has vanished.

A spokesperson for Lego told us:

We are aware of the existence of websites that mislead consumers in different ways and we take all of these incidents very seriously.

While we don’t comment on our specific actions, what we can say is that when we are made aware of or observe any situation where consumers are misled and our intellectual rights are violated we always take the appropriate actions to protect consumers as well as our brand.

We believe that consumers should always be aware of when they are purchasing a genuine Lego product and when they purchase something else – and they should not be misled when purchasing.

We are aware that it may be difficult to identify a fake online store, but if in doubt, consumers can be certain that the official Lego shop is genuine.

Always do your research

Even if the price isn’t ‘too good to be true’, do a few final background checks before entering your card details. 

A quick Google and a read through of some online reviews could be all it takes to avoid being scammed.

These reviews can be faked of course – we explain how to spot the signs here – but a flurry of negative comments is a very bad sign. 

For sites selling branded goods, you can always contact that brand directly via its official channels to verify any adverts or offers you’ve seen.

And remember, if a site has a padlock in the address bar and begins with https (rather than http) this doesn’t mean that it’s automatically safe.

While you should never enter sensitive details on sites without one – as the padlock means the connection is encrypted – it doesn’t tell you anything about the content or intentions of the site. 

Getting your money back

If you’re worried you’ve been scammed, let your bank know what’s happened immediately and read our guide to getting your money back.

Section 75 offers legal protection for credit card purchases over £100, but you may still be able to get a refund using chargeback if you’ve spent less than £100 or used a different card. 

For chargeback, you’ll typically need to raise a dispute with your bank within 120 days of the purchase or delivery date – we explain the rules and quirks of chargeback here

Have you spotted suspicious adverts or websites? Ever placed an order for a product only to receive something else entirely?

If so, let us know in the comments below so we can help warn others.

Comments

I can 100% understand why people would get sucked into this.

Many companies do clearance sales of damaged stock (although I don’t think Lego do) and frankly when you have a kid who can build a £70 set in a day the idea of a cheap set would be very tempting.

If my son had saved up for a set on this site and lost his money I could have covered the costs but so many families wouldn’t. It is just cruel to do this, essentially, to children.

Pauline Lord says:
18 July 2020

I sympathise with people who’ve suffered from scams including the the Lego ones, and it’s true the Lego prices do seem high, but in the case of “a kid who can build a £70 set in a day”: I thought that one of the reasons Lego is valued by parents is that it can be endlessly rebuilt in such a variety of configurations, and so can foster a child’s imagination way beyond the initial set=up.

I am not in favour of a bank refunding money when a customer has fallen for a fraud and lost money. The bank has no relationship with the fraudulent seller and has simply obeyed their customer’s instructions to transfer funds to another bank account. If we allow all frauds automatic refunds we simply remove the responsibility the customer should have in being careful about what they buy and who from.

I see a credit card purchase differently. The card provider has, directly or indirectly, given a seller the facilities to take payment from a customer’s card account. I see them, therefore, as responsible for checking the integrity of the seller and monitoring and responding to untoward activity. The consumer still has personal responsibility in what and where they buy but so has the card provider in approving the seller.

Jim says:
18 July 2020

Agreed. The bank has no relationship with the fraudulent seller & allowing all frauds automatic refunds means customers need take no responsibility whatsoever, the police have little or no incentive to go after the criminals, if caught, the courts less likely to impose harsher penalties – no victim – except the banks who claw back repayments to scam victims by increasing fees, reducing interest on savings or both.

Matt says:
20 July 2020

Banks have an obligation to know their customer (KYC), the system relies on the integrity of all the players to carry out checks and ensure fraudulent parties are removed/prevented from accessing the system

His credit card provider was wrong to tell “him he must send the scarf back to China at his own expense (a whopping £25) under scheme rules“. He can argue that the supplied scarf is unrelated to his purchase of the lego and that the scarf is instead subject to the provisions of Regulation 27A of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Furthermore, he can argue that, as he believed he was dealing with a UK business (based on the web site’s domain name, pricing currency and any other UK-specific characteristics) with no mention of China, then he is under no obligation to send goods to China.

Although chargeback is not a statutory right, it is a contractual right (between card holder and card issuer), and he should therefore insist on this contractual right being honoured. I doubt that the card issuer has quoted the relevant scheme rule that requires him to send goods to another country. He should challenge this.

We don’t know whether Ian’s card was Visa, MasterCard, American Express or another card network. On the assumption that it is MasterCard, see page 68 of MasterCard’s chargeback guide, which states “For disputes involving goods: The cardholder returned the goods or informed the merchant the goods were available for pickup“. There is no requirement to send incorrect goods to another country.

I agree with you, NFH, and I am concerned that Which? did not know that when producing this Conversation and explain the point.

I couldn’t make much sense of the following paragraph –

Ian explained that he had requested a pre-paid returns label from Topwhs.com with no response. If the company does reply with a returns address, he will have to pay to return the item..

There’s a “not” missing in the second sentence, surely, between “does” and “reply”. Since the statement is false anyway, it might be better to recast that section of the piece.

John, you’re absolutely right. This is the second story from Which recently that has omitted crucial details.

I’m also concerned by Which’s advice that “Unlike Section 75, chargeback isn’t a legal protection“. Although chargeback is not a statutory right, it is a contractual right (between card holder and card issuer), particularly if the card issuer explicitly mentions it in marketing material, in which case it forms a contractual term under Section 50 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Consumers need to be educated that chargeback is legally enforceable as a contractual right.

Thanks, Chiara.

I am not sure your response satisfies the point that NFH made in his first comment in this thread –
https://conversation.which.co.uk/shopping/fake-lego-shopping-site-scams-scarf/#comment-1602315

It is useful to understand the difference between the Chargeback policy for Mastercard-backed debit cards and those issued on other networks. This is critical in terms of how the banks handle claims and it could lead to errors if bank staff themselves are not aware of the variance in respect of the return of goods vis-à-vis availability for collection.

P.S. I am pleased to note that you are following up NFH’s point about contractual protection.

Thanks for your reply, Chiara. Given that chargeback can be escalated to the Financial Ombudsman Service as well as a number of other reasons, it is a form of legal protection, albeit a contractual one, as opposed to a statutory one like Section 75. My point is that “legal protection” is an all-encompassing vague term, as opposed to “statutory right” or “contractual right“. I think that Which should rephrase its advice to say “Unlike Section 75, chargeback isn’t a statutory right“.

David says:
18 July 2020

I don’t think there’s a “not” missing. If they reply, with a returns address (but no prepaid label), he will have to pay to return the item. Well, not have to – it’s up to him. If they don’t reply, he can’t return it at anyone’s expense.

I’m bound to say that problems buying online aren’t restricted to scams unfortunately and Which and the population in general need to aware of what we have encountered.

We bought a hob recently for my daughter who’s struggling financially since Covid.
After Parcelforce ‘losing’ the first one in their hub, we were ordered another, which arrived smashed. We cancelled and bought elsewhere. The next company delivered a hob with no box but merely polystyrene ends-protection and plastic film wrapping. It is faulty: one ring isn’t working. Trying to speak with them involves endless phone queuing and then they insist we deal with the manufacturer. Clearly our contract is with the retailer not the manufacturer.
It’s a new item not fit for purpose! Having spent days on the phone for consumer support to get a refund and have the hob collected, I have now had to revert to quoting the Consumer Rights Act and invoking Section 75.
Such companies are hiding behind Covid for everything that’s actually bad service and holding onto money that people cannot afford to do without. The family has been without a hob for cooking now for over a week for no fault of ours. Meanwhile they’re holding our money which could buy a hob elsewhere. We are trying to support local and national business however it seems with such disgraceful practices towards customers they deserve no patronage.

Sue Watson says:
18 July 2020

Last Christmas I ordered a mop and bucket from a fb ad. What arrived from China eventually was a pair of pink rubber gloves. Luckily I had paid through Pay Pal and although I had to return them at a cost of £10.00 postage Pay Pal refunded the postage and because the seller didn’t communicate with them they refunded the full cost as well.

Midi MAGIC says:
18 July 2020

I have tried on a couple of occasions to forward doggy emails to you get they bounce back saying your server won’t except them as they look like a scam, which of course they are.
Not a lot of good then. I told you about it on your FB page but it was rejected. ?????

mr paul sparrow says:
18 July 2020

I was scamed by an online site called seanleahmusic.com the site showed signes hats at cheap prices and did not say it was based in china when I eventully got the parcel it contained a fake Versace baseball cap so as a warning avoid their website

Christopher ALLMAN says:
18 July 2020

I had dealings with a Company called BRICO DEPOT – UK who advertised a Garden Kneeler with Tool bag for £29.99 on Facebook. I sent off for one and a month or more later received the very small toolbag and nothing else, no kneeler. I subsequently found out that there is a genuine BRICO DEPOT but the firm I dealt with BRICO DEPOT – UK was a bogus company which appeared to originate in China. I raised the matter with my Bank and launched a Dispute through them. They repaid me my money, cancelled my Card and issued me with a new one and are currently investigating the company. I saw on TrustPilot that there were many like me who have been conned by this Company.

Matt says:
20 July 2020

I had similar but with a different company – only received a small piece of green material which might be a tool bag, no kneeler. Currently going through paypal to try and get my money back.

I NEVER buy anything from social media or text messages – I know too many people who have been scammed this way. Always go to a reputable seller.
I just had a scam message on my phone purporting to be from Amazon about my Prime membership. I checked with Amazon who said it was a scam and never to select any options from there calls (like pressing 1). Amazon said they never phone their customers in this way.

Ian Lucas says:
18 July 2020

Like Rusty, I’ve had the scam call from Amazon. I had just cancelled my free trial, but the call said I would be charged unless I deleted the account, and then tried to get me to install TeamViewer “so that I could fill in a form.” Was the timing coincidental?

I’m also getting repeated calls from weird phone numbers (including 0) telling me my internet provider is cutting me off due to illegal activity, and to press 1 to speak to a supervisor.

david hartley says:
18 July 2020

now you know what I said to him ——of and put the phone down

James Fraser says:
18 July 2020

I saw an electric bike for $24. Thought that it was too good to be true, but thought I would buy it to see what came. Paid by PayPal so could rely on that protection. What came after 3 mths was a childs bike helmet. Sent it back to receive a refund. The return postage £12, was refunded by PayPal as they offer 12 return post refunds a year. I generally pay these things on paypal as the dispute and returns process is straightforward.

Carol Bottrill says:
18 July 2020

I was scammed after ordering masks from HomeLux and Sweethouse after anSwearing an ad on Facebook. Money taken from credit card. They were using a Barnsley address but trading standards say it was in Nigeria. Masks never arrived and no response of course to emails. I am now supper cautious about buying from FACEBOOK adds

A friend of mine, she is always falling for scams. The latest one was on facebook. It showed a very good Little tykes clearance sale advert. It was best.shopfuntoys.com. She ordered a bouncy castle, original price about £400 for £40. I told her she would not be able to buy just the blower for that price but she ordered and paid an extra £15 for quick delivery. Nothing was delivered of course. I was able to see the web site and advert when I first checked it and it was very well done using Little tykes logos etc just like the real site. The next day the site was not there so it was just set up for a quick scam then disappear.

I got stung on facebook a couple of years ago, from a company called Great Price Sale. They strung me along for months with protracted emails. I didn’t get anywhere with them and gave up. I don’t think they exist any longer.

CHARLES KYTE says:
20 July 2020

This is not about an advert or website. I had an automated telephone call informing me that my Amazon Prime subscription was due for renewal @ £79.99. I don’t have a Prime account and I believe the annual subscription to be £29.99. An obvious scam. But if they hadn’t been so greedy and A N Other did have a Prime account perhaps A N Other might have been tricked.

Charles – There is a whole Conversation dedicated to the ‘Amazon Renewal’ telephone scam if you are interested, with over 1,700 reports from people suffering these annoying interruptions [in many cases multiple times, so it is a huge problem]; luckily most people seem to have smelled a rat and terminated the call, but many others must be getting caught [but keep it to themselves]. See –
https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/amazon-prime-renewal-scam-phone-call/#comment-1602882

Nicolas Bellord says:
20 July 2020

I ordered seeds from two different companies through Amazon. I should have checked the reviews of those companies! One was advertising seeds from an English company but eventually sent an unmarked packet from China. The second one was a company in Indonesia that simply never delivered and kept saying that the problem was a delay in Customs and they extend the delivery date so that you cannot complain to Amazon until the delivery date is past. However in both case Amazon did refund the money which was under £10. All very tedious but obviously check the company and where it is by reading the reviews not only of the product but the company itself. Ignore any request to return the wrong goods or requests for photos – such is only part of the delaying tactics in the hope that you will give up.

Joy Paul says:
22 July 2020

I got scammed by a company advertising CBD oil on fb. Offered 6 £25 bottles for price of 3. After i had put my credit card details in, a page came up offering more …4 bottles of omega3 tablets at £20 each! I didnt want these. But the page only gave option to press ‘next’.. no ‘no’ or ‘yes’ boxes! I pressed next to get out of it. The scammers congratulated me on my order of 6 full priced cbd oil bottles and 4 omega3 tablets totalling £250!!! I am in midst of a claim from m&s chargecard. The company are american. Charged me also to convert pounds to dollars yet i never knew i was dealing with usa company!! The goods finally arrived (despite me trying to cancel immediately) , after 3 months!! And i had to pay a further £16 customs!!! M&s say i must accept the goods if thy arrive or thy cant refund me. But will thy now say that as i received them thy will cancel the dispute? My dispute is re breach of contract in more ways than receiving the goods. I was scammed into believing i was paying for 3 instead of 6 cbd oil and then scammed into buying another product where there was no ‘get out’ !!! Is there a part of the credit card law that others on here are quoting that will cover me if m&s decide i received thr goods so wont refund me? (I am loathe to srnd them back because trader has warned if i dont follow their procedures thy wont be responsible for the goods!)…ie i dont trust them to refund after all this, so could end up with no goods and no money!

Mr Guder says:
24 July 2020

Even when the Company is “legit” they are not obliged to sell you those items at the price seen on the website. What recourse can you take? Never shop on that website again? There is absolutely no protection in law at all, or if there is it involves a large legal bill that the majority can ill afford.

Malcolm says:
3 August 2020

I fell for a very similar scam to the Lego one but my purchase was for Ecco shoes at a “bargain warehouse clearance” price. The website looked extremely professional and I was presented with it as a Google promoted ad site when I went searching for Ecco shoes.
Immediately I ordered i knew something was up when my money was taken by a hot tub company in the USA and the confirmation emails came from China.
Long story short I was sent a pack of 10 face masks which they claimed was a logistics mistake, tried to get me to buy some other shoes but I said no. Offered me a refund minus 43% costs. Never received it.