Scott Shepherd wants to warn others after he was ripped off for thousands of pounds by an online car dealership that doesn’t exist.
The 39 year-old, from Alyth, Perth and Kinross, paid £6,750 for a Volvo S60 from a website.
Photos of the car looked genuine and the details seemed to match up when he checked them out with the DVLA.
“I thought it was a good car at a decent price and, at first, communication with the supposed dealership was good,” he said. “I simply couldn’t go to view the vehicle in person as it was in Lancashire.”
What Scott didn’t realise was the website was using adverts cloned from genuine ads for vehicles at real dealerships.
It is known as online shopping and auction fraud.
Unsuspecting customers visit what they think is a genuine website only to find out later that money they paid has vanished straight into the pockets of crooks – and the goods never arrive.
In April, Scott thought he was emailing a salesman at topautovehiclesolutions.co.uk.
Various “representatives” messaged him with pictures and details of the Volvo he wanted.
“The invoice for your order has been issued,” he was then told by someone from the “finance department”. “Please inform us as soon as the payment has been completed so we can start the delivery arrangements.”
Scott transferred £6,750 by phone from his account at the Royal Bank of Scotland to an account at the Metro Bank, as instructed.
After payment was made, he was told the car would be delivered at 6pm the next day. He was promised the driver would phone him when he was close by.
However, the car never arrived and Scott soon realised he had been scammed. The topautovehicle-solutions website disappeared and emails to them bounced back.
“Metro Bank told me all it was able to rescue for me was £6.33,” Scott said. “In hindsight, despite all of the checks I had made on this vehicle and the dealership, all the details had been copied from other genuine companies.
“I felt daft. I would hate anyone else to get caught out like this so I want to warn other people.”
After Scott contacted Raw Deal, we asked Metro Bank to look into the issue.
It turned out the account opened by the fraudsters had been virtually emptied and Scott had lost his money.
A Metro Bank spokesperson said: “We understand the stress caused by becoming a victim of fraud and we’re very sorry to hear about this case.
“All the necessary checks were undertaken when the beneficiary account was opened. We also blocked the account immediately once we were informed by RBS. Unfortunately, by this point limited funds remained in the beneficiary account.”
The bogus car website Scott engaged with has also been reported to the police via the Action Fraud service.
Action Fraud warns not to pay for goods or services by bank transfer unless you know and trust the person or company.
“Payments via bank transfer offer you no protection if you become a victim of fraud,” said a spokesperson.
How to avoid online fraud
Check the URL in the web browser. Don’t be fooled by spoof websites where the address is slightly changed.
Ensure the website address begins “https” at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
Don’t access links in unsolicited emails. Type in the website address or use a search engine.
Avoid paying by money transfers direct to people you don’t know. Use an online payment option such as PayPal.