Saturday, 6 December 2014

Odd Crime

From the Swindon Advertiser

Police are warning the public to beware of fraudsters after a man in Swindon was conned into handing over £400 for a laptop and a phone - only to find that all he had bought was a bottle of water.

The man was approached at 2.40pm yesterday in Manchester Road, Swindon by a man driving a green Ford Mondeo.

The victim was shown a grey rucksack containing a laptop and mobile phone which the man was selling. He told the victim that he wanted to sell them as his wife had just bought them but she no longer wanted them.

The two men agreed a price of £400 and then the victim went to the nearest cash machine to withdraw the money.

He returned to the green Mondeo and handed over the cash in exchange for the rucksack and the car drove off. Unfortunately, when he opened the bag he realised that it was full of cardboard and a bottle of water.

I used to think this was called bait-and-switch, but that's something else. But I've heard of other variations on this scam, like a man with a van full of salmon in ice parked up in an upmarket estate. The salmon "isn't going to last" and he has to get rid of them before they go bad. He shows the salmon, and the owner buys a box only to find it's full of ice.

The weird part of the story is that you can buy a reasonable laptop and phone for less than £400 from the shops nowadays. You can get a Dell laptop for £179 and a Moto G for £150. That's brand new, manufacturer-warrantied and all of that. Why would you buy stuff from a bloke out of his car for more?

And why would someone not just sell on eBay? Or if "just bought them", return the goods?


Steven_L said...

Very good! This would not fall under the EU consumer protection prohibition on 'bait and switch' (see Directive 2005/29/EC Annex 1, paragraph 6).

Lots of scams like this on the run up to Xmas. Fake iphones usually rears theirs heads too.

Rich Tee said...

This is indeed an old trick.

I would always avoid selling electronic items on eBay. I sold a laptop and it took three tries due to timewasters (one person bid more than I actually paid for it, so I contacted them and asked them if they wanted out of the deal and they said yes). When I did eventually sell it the chap insisted on coming into my home and inspecting it first.

But I sold a drum machine once and it was fine, musicians seem to be more relaxed about it.

A K Haart said...

"The weird part of the story is that you can buy a reasonable laptop and phone for less than £400 from the shops nowadays."

It is weird. Did he test the laptop in the street? Did he connect it to the web and try it out or check it for malware?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Adding to your list at the end, "who on earth buys stuff off people who hail them down in the street by the driver of a passing car?"

I can only assume that the whole story is either fictitious or at least distorted and re-written to the point of fantasy.

The Stigler said...


Yeah, but in the past, the scam was based on people not having a reasonable option. People were sold a video recorder in a box for £50 when even a basic one cost £300. My mum's smartphone cost £130 (Moto G) and I'm really impressed with it.


Trouble with electronics - you never know what you're getting. I stopped buying on eBay because a motherboard arrived and it didn't work and the guy was like "worked when it left". I mostly buy 2nd hand DVDs from eBay from big companies and just odd things like unusual espresso cups.

All I can think is that this was some high end stuff, like an iPhone 6 and a Macbook Pro, and the guy figured he was getting such a bargain from an idiot.

Yeah. Had it happened at Motorway services with people selling watches and always refused to even look.

It really makes no sense today - it's more efficient for someone to sell online than to drive around.

Steven_L said...

The watches at service stations are genuine watches, but they are a worthless brand. The scammers have watches made with a good sounding brand (like Claude Valentini) then take out a full page advert in BMW owners magazine or similar boasting a massive RRP for it.

Then the man at at the service station or the mock auction just shows you the BMW mag advert to justify that £200 is dirt cheap. But the watches only trade on ebay for £40.

Its amazing how good some of the these salesmen are. I got to go watch a mock auction and make a test purchase for trading standards in 2004. Even knowing it was a scam, by the end of it I was feeling tempted to go out to the cash machine and withdraw £200 for Claude Valentini watch.

The Stigler said...


That's a nice trick.

But isn't this all part of someone seeing this as a "money for nothing" situation, much like joining up with pyramid schemes? Someone thinks that their personal god has shone a light on them to buy a £40 watch that they'll be able to resell for more?