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A sinner repents and warns of a scam

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by MrSafety, Mar 21, 2003.

  1. MrSafety

    MrSafety
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    First an apology. I confess. I started a thread a week or so ago saying that I had a friend in the US who could get me a VW12HT for the same price as a HS10.

    'twas a lie. Here is the true story and let this act as a warning to anyone tempted by similar promises.

    There was a chap selling a VW12HT on ebay for £2100 so I mailed him to ask about it. He was in Germany and the PJ was brand new, boxed and came with a Sony warranty and was UK power version (240v). He said if I wanted to buy he would stop his ebay auction and would just sell it to me straight off at £2100. This was my first twinge of suspicion.

    I checked out the situation with VAT and whatever and found that there would be none due since Germany was in the EU and the German rate of VAT was included in the price. The seller urged me to state whether I wanted it or not and I said yes (after posting the abovementioned lying thread to see if I was making the right decision).

    The seller explained that he normally did his deals through an escrow company and that this protected him and me - basically the escrow agent act as a middle man and hold the payment for N days (where N is agreed between buyer and seller) whilst the buyer "approves" the goods. Once this period elapses or the buyer is happy with the goods the escrow company releases the money and both sides of the deal are complete. It sounded sensible enough given I would be spending a couple of grand with someone over the net who I knew nothing about apart from.

    So I created a user account with the escrow company and initiated a transaction. I then discovered that the escrow company only accepted something called "e-gold" as a method of payment. E-gold turns out to be a gold-based virtual currency which is accepted globally. What you do is you buy e-gold (not through the escrow company but a separate gold trading company of whom there are many on the web) by transferring money from your bank account into the gold traders bank account and they then set up a e-gold account for you when the money clears. You then use this e-gold account to transfer money from it to the escrow agents e-gold account.
    This all sounded completely over-the-top and suspect but, again, there were a number of different companies involved here and it seemed just credible enough for me to actually purchase some e-gold so I did.

    Next day I couldn't get into the escrow agent website. The escrow agent had no contact number and were only contactable via e-mail. I mailed them to find out why and a day later was told that they had suffered a hacker attack and lost all their user account details could I please re-enter them.
    I did - suspicion twinge number 3.

    Meanwhile the seller seemed to be experiencing the same problems but appeared to have better communication with the escrow company than I did. The next day I got a mail from them telling me they were changing their domain name from .co.uk to .com so their website would be out of action for a day and they would e-mail me when this transition was complete.

    They didn't and when the site came back on line I found (once again) they my account had been deleted and I had to create a new one. I was now getting very cold feet and whilst my e-gold account was still safe I had incurred £65 commision fee to change my sterling into e-gold and what was worse was that the exchange rate was fluctuating against me so that the balance in the account was now insufficient to pay the £2100 PJ cost and the half of the escrow fee which I was due to pay (the seller paying the other half).

    I mailed the seller and explained my cold feet and predicament and he offered to pay all the escrow charges and just would I transfer the money into the escrow companies e-gold account and let me know which address he should ship the PJ to.

    My nagging doubts made me do something I have never done before and I got a colleague at work to run a check on the escrow company through companies house. The info didn't look good and what was worse was the company was based in Germany - same place as the seller.

    When I went to the e-gold website the next day to check my balance I happened to notice a link on their site called "Security Alert" and clicked it. What do you know - it outlined something called an escrow scam where deals just like the one I was contemplating were conducted but where the seller was the same as (or in cahoots with) a fictitious escrow agent and once e-gold had been transferred into the account where never heard of again. Further e-gold transactions are non-repudiable so once the money's transferred it's tough toenails pal.

    I got frostbite.

    I mailed the seller and told him I was backing out of the deal unless he could give me alternative ways of completing the transaction which gave me some security or could provide with information which would give me confidence that this was a sensible thing to do.

    No reply.

    I waited 3 days - an enormous delay compared to the previously prompt communications I had previously had with the seller - and got no response.

    Finally, yesterday I mailed him and told him that if I didn't hear from him by the end of the day I would withdraw from the deal.

    No reply.

    I double-checked his feedback on ebay (which was good) and found that all his feedback had been for him as a buyer and none as a seller.

    So, I have transferred my e-gold back into my bank account and ordered a HS10 from nexnix this very morning.

    The sum total of my loss is :
    (a) £105 from exchanging sterling into e-gold and back again
    (b) a severe loss of face amongst people I have told about this deal
    (c) the embarassment of admitting it all here

    On the plus side I have purchased hopefully the right PJ for me (only bought a HS1 at Xmas and am upgrading already due to the awful screen door effect) from a recommended (through avforums) agent in the UK with whom I can return it if it doesn't suit, and I count myself lucky that I have lost only £100 and not the whole 2 grand the probably non-existent PJ would have cost me.

    To anyone out there looking for the bargain of a lifetime on ebay - be careful out there.

    And to all the genuine members of this forum please accept this complete and unadulterated account of what actually happened as an apology for posting an untruthful thread.

    I guess you could say that I have lived up to my soubriquet of MrSafety by backing out of the deal, or you could say I have contradicted it by contemplating the deal in the first place. You decide.

    Meanwhile I am in the process of moving to a new house where I will be lucky enough to have a room dedicated to a home cinema and as a hopefully proud HS10 owner and future home cinema setter-upper I will promise here and now to post updates and constructive comment hereon in.


    Thankyou for listening

    MrSafety
     
  2. graham.myers

    graham.myers
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    There was a segment on Watchdog about that a few moons ago.

    twas spun as on the same lines as the nigerian scams
     
  3. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Mr Safety,

    Good of you to share your experience with us all and I am sorry you lost out. For anyone else reading this please note that this is a common fraud..........if you ever see a product sold "as new" on ebay or any other auction house, at a ridiculously low price you should be suspiscious.

    Gordon
     
  4. John_N

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    :eek:

    That's an interesting and cautionary tale....

    I've bought a few things off Ebay but never so expensive and I always refuse to use paypal or any other middlemen...

    Hope you enjoy the HS10 though. It's a very good unit..

    John
     
  5. Branxx

    Branxx
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    You were lucky. Sellers in such scams are usually in Romania and they claim to ship the good from the US via UPS.

    An obvious check in these cases is to ask for serial number and then check with the distributor in the UK that the piece will be serviceable and if the warrant is transferable. Most likely you will not get s/n, but if you do you be able to confirm if the item is legally in the possession of the seller.

    Other failsafe check is to offer to come a collect the item personally. About a year ago I come across an eBay seller claiming to be in Amsterdam and selling a very desirable item unused and for only £2,500 while the new item cost closer to £10,000. He wanted money transferred via Western Union. When I said that I would drive to Amsterdam and meet him at his convenience, he backed off claiming that he is too busy to meet me. I then offered to compensate him for the loss of time by paying £100 extra, but he still claimed that it is ‘too busy’. It was obvious that the seller was not genuine. Finally, I suggested paying £500 extra (a very good daily rate) he stop replaying to my e-mails.
     
  6. Dick Scratcher

    Dick Scratcher
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    I have bought on e-bay but small items and only from the UK. The four criteria I apply to anything I see in the auctions are (i) ensure the seller has a lot of selling history with favourable feedback, an e-bay shop is usually a good sign, (ii) DON'T buy ANYTHING that needs to be shipped in from abroad even if the seller 'appears' to be based in the UK, just 'cos it says United Kingdom on the page doesn't mean a damned thing, (iii) NEVER EVER transfer money abroad into any type of account whatsoever, Escrow sounds good if you think your funds may be at risk but to my mind it's utterly meaningless, ignore it, (iv) finally, the old adage still applies - if it's too good to be true, it usually is - you can't go wrong.

    I do my research before using e-bay and I learn from others mistakes. It has its uses, things can generally be cheaper and you can get hold of items that may not be available in the UK through regular retail outlets, but in this day and age a real bargain is a very rare thing. Don't be taken in, as far as financial affairs are concerned you must allow your head to rule your heart!
     

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