Buying a dream motorhome has turned into a nightmare as online fraudsters have swindled a Bedford woman of £12,000.
Chef Trudy Cosgrove spotted the vehicle for sale on an internet classified advert site and contacted the vendor.
She said: “It was a large RV motorhome, advertised in excellent condition.
“I have been living on a narrowboat for years and sold that in the hope of moving into a motorhome, doing a bit of travelling and working along the way. I’ve never been able to buy a house so this would have been my home.”
The 38-year-old said she exchanged emails with the seller, who said her name was Anna, over the course of a day and carried out a vehicle information check based on the number plate.
As the RV was in Scotland, Anna said she would organise a transporter to bring it south, and arranged a PayPal transation to pay for it.
Mrs Cosgrove said: “When the PayPal information was sent through, I checked it thoroughly and even had an online chat with a PayPal rep.”
She transferred the money, and it was agreed the vehicle would arrive the following day but when it didn’t arrive, Mrs Cosgrove became concerned.
She said: “I began emailing Anna but there was no reply. I contacted PayPal but they said they had no record of any transaction.”
By now, Mrs Cosgrove realised she’d been scammed and called the police and contacted Barclays Bank, which held the account the money was transferred to, and PayPal.
She said: “I reported the incident to the fraud agency, and the banks but I’ve heard nothing.
“Not only did these people rip me off for £12,000, they’ve left me homeless. I spent the last of my money on a caravan to live in but I am worried about the winter months.
“I wake up feeling sick every morning with the emotional and financial stress.”
Mrs Cosgrove, who is now living in Wyboston, called Action Fraud which passed the details to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), both divisions of the City of London Police.
An Action Fraud spokesman said: “We have received this report and passed it to the NFIB, which will analyse the information and identify any lines of inquiry. This will then be passed to the relevant local police force to carry out an investigation.”
Barclays Bank said the funds were transferred to an account but the money was immediately withdrawn and the account closed.
A spokesman said: “Barclays complies with all regulatory requirements and has robust identity and verification process. Where we are alerted to inappropriate activity we act swiftly to investigate and if necessary to close the account. Customers who transfer funds into an account after a fraud has been detected would receive a refund.
“Unfortunately in the case of Ms Cosgrove, it was not reported until after the funds had been removed from the account. Incidents of this kind should always be reported to the police and we will assist with their investigation in any way we can.”
PayPal confirmed its customer service team is working directly with Mrs Cosgove “in order to review her transaction history and help resolve the issue”.
Its spokesman added: “Providing a trusted and secure payments service for our customers is our number one priority at PayPal. As with any customer enquiry or report, we are conducting a thorough investigation into this matter to resolve it as quickly as possible.”
Barclays and PayPal have issued the following advice to help customers avoid being ripped off:
Barclays said: “Banks try to protect their customers where possible, but it’s really important that people are aware of these scams and take steps to protect themselves. For fraud prevention advice and tips on keeping your money safe, go to www.barclays.co.uk/fraudprevention.”
It also issued this car purchasing advice: “There are various websites where cars can be purchased, including online car dealers, internet auction sites and private sellers. The following simple tips will help to make sure buying a car over the internet is from a genuine seller and will ensure you are better protected if there’s a problem later:
• Once you have found the car you want to buy online, you must go and see it in person before paying a deposit or agreeing to buy it
• Always meet at the seller’s home or business premises. Otherwise, it could be difficult to find them again if things go wrong later
• Check you are dealing with a reputable online car company. Look for the ISIS logo, which means an online dealer must meet certain standards
• There are various car checker sites that will let you know if the car has previously written off, has any outstanding finance or if it’s been stolen
• Test drive the car, buying a car off the internet doesn’t automatically mean it will drive well
• Think about getting an independent report into the car’s condition and a history check into its background
• Using PayPal, Verified by Visa or a credit card provides better protection against fraud or problems when making an online purchase
• Don’t be fooled by auction site sellers that claim their PayPal account isn’t working or use other reasons why PayPal cannot be used
• Be cautious if the internet seller asks you to send money direct to their bank account for a high values items that you haven’t seen in person
• You can consider using cash to purchase the car but don’t carry large quantities around with you
• When choosing to buy an item on an auction site, complete the transaction on the site’s recommended secure payment method. Sending money to auction site sellers that are operating outside of the sites rules and policies could result in the buyer not being eligible under their Buyer Protection scheme.”
PayPay said: “We go to great lengths to protect our customers in the UK, but there are a few, simple precautions we should all take to avoid online scams.
1. Be aware of any emails that ask you to provide any personal information directly in response
2. Look out for spelling mistakes, which are a common tell-tale sign of a fraudulent email or website
3. A genuine PayPal email will only ever address you by your first name and surname at the beginning of the email – anything that starts ‘Dear customer’ should immediately raise your suspicions
4. Scammers often use a false sense of urgency to prompt you to act on a phishing email. If you want to check that PayPal has tried to reach you, go to PayPal.co.uk and log into your account. You will have a secure message waiting if PayPal does need you to take any action
5. If you have any concerns regarding any fraudulent email or website, you should send it to firstname.lastname@example.org”