Customer refunded after double hit from rogue seller and bogus courier

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In the course of checking prices for his soft top saloon Brian Vaughn went on to a Facebook page for motor enthusiasts and posted a message.

Then, he told Crusader, “a man called Simon contacted me with a £200 offer. I checked out the address which seemed legitimate – it was a garage in Newcastle – and I did a bank transfer.”

++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer champion Maisha Frost on [email protected] +

His concern began when the seller’s surname changed on the emails  sent and then on the shipping information he received. This was followed by a disturbing message from the courier, calling itself PALS (Parcel Logistics). 

As well as differently spelled domain addresses for its customer support, and other inconsistencies on its website information such as its Glasgow address which according to the city’s council does not exist, Brian was told he needed to pay £350 upfront “today” before receiving the wheels.

“This insurance fee is 100 per cent refundable,” claimed the demand explaining it “was a new policy that was enforced by the prevention agents due to the Corona virus and don’t want it caught up by any legal authority because it will also ruin our services. So try to get it paid as soon as possible.”

Many calls followed. “I’ve worked in legal services and won’t be bullied, but this pressure was intense,” says Brian. “I resisted, but I wouldn’t want someone else to go through that.”

Realising he had been sucked into a scam network, he reported his wheels payment details to the digital finance company holding the account where his money went. It confirmed it was a scam, said it was “taking action” and referred Brian to his own bank Santander.

Bank transfers offer no consumer protection or redress which is why crooks choose them. However, with Crusader’s help Brian’s case was highlighted and Santander promptly supported him.  

It said: “We have the utmost sympathy for all those who fall victim to the criminals who perpetrate these scams. After reviewing [Brian’s] case, we have refunded him the £200 fraudulently taken. 

“We would recommend that everyone seeks to verify the legitimacy of online sellers before they go through with a purchase. If something doesn’t seem right after purchasing goods or services online, customers should contact their bank immediately so we can investigate and give advice on what to do next.”

Crusader asked PALS, which appears to be US based, to comment. One email address did not work and there has been no reply from the other. There has been no response either from the Newcastle garage cited by the fraudsters. The wheels seller has disappeared. [Brian’s name has been changed]

Before buying always do a purchase scam test

Purchase scams seek to trick online shoppers into thinking they’re dealing with a legitimate contact or company when it’s actually a scammer.

Fraudsters can advertise on social media, infiltrate genuine selling sites, create fake ones or hack sellers’ accounts. Marketplaces are high risk so be suspicious of surprisingly low-priced items and pushy sellers.

The seller may be using a fake profile, or if they have a website, it may not show their own buyer and seller protection information. Don’t make bank transfers or cash payments, check a range of review sites and compare them before parting with your money.

This helps rule out any fake reviews left by fraudsters. If buying from a reputable marketplace as eBay or Autotrader stick to the advice given and never communicate outside the site. 

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