Great Waldingfield phone trader conned out of £1,600 warns others to watch out for sophisticated scammers targeting online sellers
An independent phone trader, who was conned out of more than £1,000 of inventory, believes organised crime groups are capitalising on the Covid-19 pandemic, after warning people to be wary of transaction scams.
Great Waldingfield resident Ross Gerrie urged others not to be caught out by the same “well rehearsed and professional” scam that he fell victim to last month, which he thinks could be linked to similar crimes in Suffolk in recent months.
Thieves have created fake social media accounts to respond to people advertising top-of-the-range phones for sale, then, upon arriving to collect them in person, used distraction techniques to make off with the goods without paying.
Mr Gerrie, who runs iPhone For You, a second-hand phone business, described being targeted at home by such a group on Sunday, March 30, who had arranged to buy three high-end devices for £1,600.
At 3pm, a man described as standing six foot four and of stocky build arrived to collect them, showing an envelope with the money, which he allowed Mr Gerrie to count, before taking it back and making idle conversation.
The man then secretly swapped the money with an identical-looking envelope containing cut-up pieces of paper, which he gave to Mr Gerrie, who handed over the phones, before showing him out.
Realising what had happened moments later, Mr Gerrie rushed out after the man, only to see him speeding away in a car driven by another person, which had been waiting around the corner.
“I like to think I’m pretty savvy to scams, but this one got me good and proper,” he told Suffolk News.
“It was like having a magic trick done to you. I can’t get over how professional and rehearsed it was.
“Part of me was kicking myself, but, if I had rumbled them, it could have got nasty.
"You don’t know whether they might have used force.
“My wife and son were in the garden, so, when you add all that up, I’m quite glad I didn’t check the envelope.
“It’s a pretty nasty trick to be a victim of. This is the first time I’ve fallen prey to something like this.”
Both Suffolk Police and Action Fraud have been contacted.
To test how prevalent this type of crime is, Mr Gerrie set up a dummy phone sales page on Facebook, and quickly received a message from the same scam account as before, which has since been deactivated.
“In my opinion, these groups are using Covid to capitalise on this scam, because, as soon as he arrived, he had a face mask on,” said Mr Gerrie.
“As the police were with me, I heard through their radio that the same thing had been done nearby.
“I think what these guys do is target certain areas and do a spree. They line up a few deals and do as many as they can, before moving on.
“It could happen to anyone, so my advice is, if you have any suspicions or doubts, follow your gut.
“It’s difficult times for people who are trying to make a living. These guys are ruthless and have no intention of doing an honest graft.
“I want justice, but, if I can prevent another individual or business from falling victim to the same scam, at least something positive can come out of my experience.”
If you know who is responsible, call police on 101, quoting the crime reference number 37/28422/21.