How to get your money back from an internet scam

As you can probably tell I am crazy about my gadgets and can’t get enough of them; sometimes I see deals online that are too good to be true and blatantly scams. Unfortunately I let my guard down very recently and got scammed/conned!

When it comes to scams I am usually on top of my game and can smell scams from a mile, whether that be online or even in person (yes London can be a scary place). But lets jump straight into how it happened!

How I got scammed

I recently registered on a website – Hot UK Deals in order to use their ‘For Sale/Trade’ section as it is a great place to get great deals for various gadgets and goods.

One morning I signed in and found a stunning deal for an iPad 3 for only £250.00 (bank transfer only) which was just posted in the for sale section. I rushed to get in there first and as soon as the page loaded I was gutted to find that someone beat me to it and was willing to buy it at asking price considering the seller posted the iPad the same day. It eventually turned out that the seller was unable to do so and so the initial buyer stepped out of the deal!

So I threw an offer in there for £230.00 stating the seller can post the iPad to me in their own time; it was my lucky day as she accepted the offer! So we exchanged personal messages and I asked to see a picture of the iPad before paying; she had a bit of trouble getting the picture from her SD card but eventually emailed it to me. It looked legit as she had great feedback on there previously selling Blu-Rays and DVDs and the iPad was pictured on the same surface as another item she sold.

So I sent over the payment via bank transfer and she mentioned that she would post the iPad to me the following day and send me tracking details. The next day I didn’t hear back from her which was a bit alarming, but I went through her feedback and saw that she was a bit lazy updating progress on other deals such as a laptop she sold (which was eventually received). So I sent her a message on the website and emailed her asking if she had posted the iPad yet and no reply over the weekend.

I checked the website on Monday for any activity from the seller and noticed she had posted another deal on the website for a Nokia Lumia 800 phone. I took that as a good sign at the time though so I asked the seller to reply to my personal message via the latest thread she posted. Straight away I received a reply from the seller apologising and claiming she would send the iPad the same day and send me tracking details in the evening.

Guess what? I received nothing that day! No email, no tracking number or even a response! So I emailed her repeatedly every day hoping I would get an update on the situation; checked the website for any activity but once again no luck. At that point I was officially scammed. A complete waste of money that could have been used towards other things even at retail price would be better than nothing at this point!

How I eventually got my money back

This isn’t always easy to do. I believe 7 out of 10 times you would probably be at a loss at this point. But wherever there is a will there is a way!

First thing I did was search Facebook for the email address the lady used to send me the picture of the iPad. To my shock she actually had a Facebook account set up on that email, how clumsy right? I did further sniffing around on her Facebook and managed to find out where she worked – another great accomplishment if everything went horribly wrong.

I also updated the thread I purchased the iPad from and received personal messages from a couple of helpful people pointing me in the right direction for more information on the seller. This was a Photobucket account which was used to host the photos, she had posted a photo of her repair receipt for her Nokia phone she had up for sale. This contained her address and telephone number! Another great source of information that would definitely help my case. I also used 192.com to confirm this information which is another great source of information when it comes to tracing individuals as it is basically a personal directory.

After finding out this information; I received another personal message on the website. This time from a moderator on the website updating me with the situation. It also turned out that the seller tried selling what appeared to be the Nokia phone she had already sold on eBay well so her feedback pointed out. This lead to more sniffing on eBay and PayPal which confirmed she had a verified account (meaning her location was proven).

I decided to give her another couple of days to reply back to me, who knows maybe she became unwell and wasn’t able to respond to me and send me the iPad on time. Things like this can happen at the end of the day. However after a full week I decided enough was enough and I called her home telephone number. No one picked up the first time nor the second time so I then decided to call again in the evening. When I called in the evening someone actually picked up the phone! It was a man however so I asked to speak to the lady who I will not name. He told me to hold on and called her name, bingo! She came down and I heard silence, then eventually the phone hung up! Not a good sign whatsoever.

So I called again and again silence and hanging up on me. I did this around 5-6 times (annoying for the other person I know) but eventually got an email from the lady. The email told me to stop ringing her house phone and to check my messages. So I went to the Hot UK Deals website and found that she sent me a personal message telling me she can’t sell the iPad no longer and would give me a refund and some money back for the trouble caused. I agreed with the offer and rejected the extra money as it wasn’t needed.

She asked me for my bank details and provided her with my account number and sort code. She also weirdly asked what bank I was with but I ignored this as this information was not needed in order to receive a payment. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me right? Anyway first she claimed she was going to make 2 part payments as her bank account acts weird sometimes. I found this awkward and told her to make one whole payment for the full amount which she eventually agreed to. She then told me this payment would be made within 24 hours as her bank takes a long time to send payment through, again I found this wrong as online banking allows you to make a ‘faster payment’.

I decided to wait a day and still got no payment whatsoever. So I emailed again giving her a deadline, I told her that if she wouldn’t refund my money by the end of the day then I would go to the police and see my solicitor to escalate this case. This obviously scared her and received a payment of £210.00 within a few hours, she told me her brother would pay me £20.00 via PayPal and asked for my email address. In another few hours I got my full refund. Just goes to show how applying the right amount of pressure and not going overboard can do wonders. Also goes to show she spent £20 of my money on something!

Tips to stay safe when buying from individuals online

1) Be fully satisfied with the seller before buying anything!

This can involve looking at the seller’s feedback, taking extra details such as a landline number and address then confirming using 192.com. It may also be good to consider what payment method is being used – usually PayPal can protect you from scams unless of course you send a gift payment; other methods such as bank transfer, Money-Gram, Western Union can be risky!

2) If it is too good to be true, then it probably is!

If you find anything online that is a complete bargain so for example lets take the iPad 3 from my story and put a price of £100 on that. I would say stay clear as it is more likely to be a scam than to be real. These sellers always ask for money first then usually send you nothing!

3) Ask the seller to send the item first before paying!

You can always try to ask the seller to send you the item before actually paying out. This ensures you are happy with the item and it is described accurately before having to actually make payment. Keep in mind though this would only work with people with hardly any feedback and your account should of course have a lot of feedback to back up you will actually pay once received.

4) Meeting up in a public place

If the buyer is relatively close, agree to arrange a meeting in a public place. This way you can check out the item and pay the seller if everything is all good and well. This ensures you are fully satisfied with the product as you get a hands on experience.

5) Avoid international sales

If you find something going cheap from someone abroad, be careful! They may ask you to pay via Western Union or another method where you aren’t covered. You should also consider any custom charges that may be incurred on arrival which might make your great deal not so great after all.

6) Use your brain

It is always great to educate yourself on the latest scams and cons going around. The last thing you want to do is be on the wrong end of the stick when trading online. The tips above are just a start, there is a lot more you can do in order to stay safe. It is always good to use your own initiative to realise when things don’t sound quite right. For example when I was told that my refund would be made in 2 payments as the bank has trouble, that got my alarm ringing and so I told her I wanted a full payment in one go.

Steps to take if you do unfortunately get scammed

1) Figure out if you were indeed scammed

It might be the case of a false alarm and you might have not actually got scammed. Don’t jump straight to conclusions but then again don’t avoid the obvious. There might be a reason why you haven’t received your item yet, such as the item being lost in the post (these things do happen), seller being unwell or just pure laziness.

You can find out if you were scammed by contacting the seller directly asking for an update on the transaction. If you get no reply you can look at the seller’s previous feedback to confirm the previous transactions were legit or not and just trying to contact the seller in various other ways. It would be good to have a contact number for the seller at this point. If you used eBay you are able to get the sellers contact number by requesting it on the eBay website!

2) Gathering evidence of payment and transaction communication details

It would be a good idea to keep payment details and communication between you and the seller in a safe place as you will need this information if things go totally wrong. This includes messages to the seller that were ignored as this proves you have been trying to contact the seller after the payment has been made.

3) Research the seller

You can do this using various ways:

Facebook: You can type in the seller’s name or an email address if you have one. If you do find them on Facebook this is a good sign, but try and sniff around without contacting the seller directly.

Other social websites: Myspace, hi5 etc. Use the same method as above.

192.com: You can type in the seller’s name to find any address details. Keep in mind though there might be a lot of people named john bob. So it might be hard to track down the correct person!

eBay: If you bought something from eBay and would like the contact number for the individual you can request this information straight from the website!

You can also use the website you found the seller on to sniff out any previous transactions. There might be a case where the seller has bought something, there isn’t any harm trying to ask that person to give you the seller’s address.

If you do find personal details about the seller

You can contact them and ask them regarding an update on the transaction. If the seller doesn’t decide to play nice you can let them know you will be going to the police and your solicitor in regards to the transaction. It would be a good idea to tell them that you have their address, contact details and other evidence (this might even work if you don’t it is worth a try). Also offer them the chance to refund you the payment if they can’t send the item.

If you don’t get a response from the seller, then go ahead and contact the police and seek advice from your solicitor. This might escalate the case further and help get your money back!

This might not work well if you don’t have concrete evidence such as the seller’s real name, address etc. As this would become a wild goose chase for the police and they wouldn’t really do much from my previous experiences anyway. But it is always worth a shot!

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