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F*ckidy f*ck! We've just given £2500 to an online fraudster!

(23 Posts)
VocationalGoat Sun 25-Oct-15 09:37:35

DH's hobby is scientific antiques. He takes part in antique fairs, buys and sells through a wider, trusted internet circle. He is well known in this field and has been doing this for years and years. Loads of experience. So this is not new and he is not wet behind the ears, to say the least.

Through a network of trusted,like-minded souls, he adds and subtracts from his collection rotuinely, trading, buying, selling. It's a hobby, not a money-making business. Recently, he bought a rather expensive item for £2500. He had dealings with another fellow antique nerd. They were communicating via email and agreed to meet at this weekend's fair to make the transaction. During the week, dealer said he would not be able to travel to London to attend the fair but DH could wire him the funds and he would arrange a courier to deliver this rather large piece. DH wired funds.

Guess who shows up at the fair today with the piece? The dealer. DH was delighted to see him in the flesh with the piece. But the dealer didn't know what DH was on about when he asked if the funds had made it into the account. He showed up expecting to be paid in person, as was originally agreed before the 'cancellation' email appeared in DH's inbox.
Dealer did not ever write the email cancelling his visit to the antiques fair, so the bank details given in the email are false. In other words, DH has been had.

He is with the dealer now at the fair and they are calling the police.

I read back through the email exchange and the email address is different on the email that reads "Can't make the fair but I will give you my account details and courier the item." That's not the email verbatim, but in a nutshell that's what it says. All emails from that point forward are from Johndoe866@gmail.com whereas the dealer's actual email is Johndoe86@msn.com. So very sneaky. (I've given a fake email, of course, but it's a close example.)

Has anyone been through something like this? Will DH get his money back? He agonised over wanting it so very much but realistically, we couldn't afford it. But I was so happy he got it in the end because he really, really, really loved it and it's worth the financial stretch, just to see the pleasure on his face. But here he is... robbed of £2500 and with no way of paying for this piece sitting in front of him at the fair... a piece he thought he'd be taking home today. Gutted for him. Just gutted.

Advice? Insight? Hope? Thank you.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Sun 25-Oct-15 09:42:30

By "wire" the funds, do you mean it was a bank transfer?

If so, did you use sort code and account number or IBAN?

If you Google Action Fraud, you need to fill that in and the police will investigate.

You also need to let the bank know. They can't do much about bank transfers, but they can secure the account and you can ask if there's any chance the cab return the money - just don't expect much. Legally, their hands are tied a bit.

If you can find any legitimate details for the scammer, you can take them to small claims to recover the money.

How much do you trust the dealer? Is it possible they were in on this? It seems such a coincidence.

lifesalongsong Sun 25-Oct-15 09:44:16

Sorry you've been conned, I know it's notoriously difficult to get money back that has been transferred willingly but I'd get in touch with your bank immediately just in case it's still in the other persons account. Do you have telephone banking?

It sounds very odd, how would a fraudster get find out about such a niche transaction - are you 100% sure that the dealer or someone else in the group isn't involved?

Masalachai123 Sun 25-Oct-15 09:44:35

No practical advise except when did you transfer the funds? I would contact the banks frauds dept as quickly as possible and see if they can get it stopped or contact the recipient bank and get it transferred back. A v similar scheme happened in work but the money was going abroad and hadn't been fully transferred so we got it back. Realistically I imagine that is your only hope - it is v likely the scammers will be based overseas and almost impossible to track down.

RainbowRoses Sun 25-Oct-15 09:44:41

It's fraud and theft, police can hopefully help.

How horrible for your DH.

Can you print out all the emails?

RainbowRoses Sun 25-Oct-15 09:45:36

Can you contact your bank to see if there is anyway they can put a hold on the money if it's not too late?

lifesalongsong Sun 25-Oct-15 09:45:40

xposts with anchor - I see you have exactly the same concerns about the dealer

Masalachai123 Sun 25-Oct-15 09:47:41

Just to add - it is possible the 'breach' occurred at the dealers end. Are either of you a talk-talk customer? In the case I know of exactly this happened: someone accessed an email chain talking about a money transfer, duplicated in a subtle way a bank account then jumped into the legitimate conversation and changed the bank details. It seems more likely the dealer would have been a target for this than you. But if that was the case, it's still not his fault. However it does suggest you're dealing with a fairly sophisticated operation.

Masalachai123 Sun 25-Oct-15 09:48:16

Sorry I meant duplicated an email account, not bank account

lifesalongsong Sun 25-Oct-15 09:59:51

That's interesting masala, do you know how the intercept happened? Do criminals somehow scan random emails looking for chat about bank transfers or do they know of transactions and try to hack into specific email accounts.

I ask because a family member enters into this type of email discussions and I'd like to warn him what to look out for

VocationalGoat Sun 25-Oct-15 10:25:27

Wow thanks a million for your time and replies. DH's phone is on answer phone so I assume he's talking to police and bank.
I wondered about the dealer but then surely he wouldn't show up at the fair...or maybe he would. It all seems fishy.
I will look at those emails again. The bank account is in the dealer's name. The email address changes though from the original MSN one to a gmail one.
This is the first time DH has dealt with this man....
I just paused to have a look at the email exchange. The dealer's original emails are detailed, knowledgeable, and informative, not too long but long enough to have informal chit chat about the history of the piece and its maker. The tone of the emails changes completely to one liners. The demand for the money is abrupt and he doesn't sign his name, only regards, claiming he needs the money urgently transferred into his UK account (HSBC). He never confirmed receipt even when probed by DH. To answer an earlier query, by wired I mean transferred (the Yank in me still peppers my language unfortunately grin).

He seemed pushy about the money but not overtly. Lower cased i's were used in both sets if emails (from the MSN and gmail accounts). I imagine, knowing police would be called and banks as well, the dealer wouldn't stand around so openly with DH.
Hopefully more info will come to light.

VocationalGoat Sun 25-Oct-15 10:28:39

In my last paragraph, which wasn't well written-I apologise- I should clarify that if the dealer were involved, he wouldn't longer around waiting with DH for a result from police or the bank. I really think the dealer's been targeted.

VocationalGoat Sun 25-Oct-15 10:29:31

Longer= linger
Sorry again.
Oh how I wish we could edit.

Grazia1984 Sun 25-Oct-15 13:01:16

It sounds like an increasingly common scam on solicitors. A is selling their house. Fraudster sends email to A saying they are the solicitor and the money should be sent to XYZ account and A sends it to the fraudster or vice versa.

These hacks are getting more and more common as it is easier than robbing a bank.

People buying consumer goods should always try to pay by credit card as s75 of the Consumer Credit Act (and I think for debit cards there may be some payment guarantee that might help too but not so sure) means the credit card company may give you your money back. Bank transfers do not have the same protection.

So the legal position at present is that a theif has stolen £2500 from your husband. So now you need to try to find out who that is and get the money back from them. Not always at all easy. Contact the bank immediately. Sometimes they can take the money back right away even if yor bank and the fraudster's bank are not the same bank. Contact the bank by phone and also confirm by post and do it very very urgently indeed. The banks will be on huge alert at present because of all those people simiolarly being scammedb y the Talk T problem.

VocationalGoat Sun 25-Oct-15 14:28:13

Thank you Grazia and all. The bank has been utterly useless and have basically said it's on the police, even though we have a (likely false) name, an HSBC account number and sort code, it's on the police to look into it and put a stop to it, not the bank. I am an HSBC customer. But DH sent the £2500 from his Barclay's account and their computers have been down all day so they can't help him. He is on his way home now and will try ringing through again when he comes in.
You couldn't make it up.
Apparently my DH transferred the money on Friday at 4pm, it's showing up as having left his account (he must have seen this online if the bank's computers were down). The thing that really grates is that it is going into a UK account, not a foreign one. If only the bank could put a stop or hold on it now and just investigate before its withdrawn. But it's up to the police to do this, so God knows when that will happen...
Goodbye £2500. That's it really, isn't it? sad

Grazia1984 Sun 25-Oct-15 14:47:52

I keep reading articles about this and they all mention that late on a Friday afternoon is when the fraudsters always do these things particularly against solicitors as they are so busy on Friday afternoons receiving and sending money for house completions and the banks are about to shut down which gives the fraudster all weekend to make off with the money.

If you don't get anywhere with the banks try the Money columns of the weekend newspapers and mention Talk Talk and publicity to the bank as that might put pressure on the bank just to do a refund although no promises because it really isn't the bank's fault.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Sun 25-Oct-15 15:49:32

The bank has no liability here. That's why scammers use bank transfer. Once it's transferred, it's gone. Even if you accidentally send money to the wrong account, the bank has to ask for permission to recover the money and if the person doesn't give permission, you have to pursue them legally for theft and by that point they've often spent the money.

It's frustrating, but it really was one in a million chance of the bank being able to help, and that was only if the transfer was not yet complete. If it's gone, it's out of the banks hands.

Fraud conferences constantly discuss giving banks the power to suspend payments during investigation but the flipside is that if the bank investigated you incorrectly, you could lose access to all your money. That's not fair, and not legal. It'd leave them open to huge compensation payments. It won't happen in the near future.

Are the police making any progress?

If you can get his name and address, you can serve papers and take him to small claims, which is your best chance of getting your money back.

lifesalongsong Sun 25-Oct-15 17:26:47

If the name you have is the name on the bank account then it may not be a false name as it takes an organised fraudster to get round money laundering requirements to open a bank account in a fake name.

As others have said it's not really the bank at fault as they are just doing what the customer instructs.

Many current type of frauds esp vishing ones involve people being persuaded to transfer money like that as they know it's very difficult to get back.

I'm sure being a Sunday makes it even more difficult, I heard of a case where some money was recovered because the person realised very quickly what had happened and went to their bank within minutes and some of the money was still in the criminals account and the bank reclaimed it somehow.

Optimist1 Sun 25-Oct-15 17:54:24

Aren't I right in saying that when you do an online transfer you only need to put the name in for your own records, not for the banks to cross-check with the account number and sort code? For example, if I want to make a payment to my friend Jen I can complete the screen using "Jen" as the payee, regardless of the fact that her account is held in the name of Jennifer Eccles. What I'm getting at is that I think the name element of the information you had for the transfer is irrelevant, OP - only the account number and sort code will be used in the money trail.

Iggi999 Sun 25-Oct-15 18:04:28

I'm about to sell a car, and have been warned not to take a transfer of funds from the person who buys it as they can cancel it afterwards, and have my car and their money. If that is true, is there no way to cancel this transaction?

lifesalongsong Sun 25-Oct-15 18:12:50

Sorry, I think optimist is right, I didn't express myself very clearly. When the police trace the bank account with the details your DH used for the transfer that account will have a name of it, what I was trying to say was that the name they find on the account may well be a real name.

Although that raises another question - if the dealer is called Joe Bloggs did the fraudster give the account name as Joe Bloggs or did he use a different name? Not that it really matters I'm wondering how sophisticated they were

AnchorDownDeepBreath Sun 25-Oct-15 18:15:53

They don't check names anymore. When bank transfers took a few days, the name used to have to match, and the transfer would fail if the name given didn't match the name on the account. To get faster payments, banks got rid of this step, so now the name provided is just for your own reference, as Optimist says.

I could give you all my bank account number and sort code and ask you to transfer money even using my MN name, and it'd still deposit fine, it wouldn't ever be checked against my actual account name.

Iggi If they pay by bank transfer, they cannot recall the money once it clears. If they pay via PayPal, they can cancel and potentially keep both the item and the money.

Unfortunately, bank transfers still seem to be one of the most misunderstood banking features, and scammers love them.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Sun 25-Oct-15 18:19:33

Ahh sorry Life, cross post.

Interesting question! Did the names match, OP?

The bank will obviously know who the account belongs too. HSBC and Barclays will provide the police will the name and address on the account, and you'll be able to use that to take them to court, eventually. It may take a bit of time for the police to provide this to you, because the criminal case will be their priority, not your money claim.

If they used a hijacked account, that's a more complex situation, but the fraudster will still need to move the money or slowly withdraw it day-by-day, so they will be traceable for a while yet.

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