When John Knight saw a Citroën Relay van for sale on eBay for £3,250, he was keen to snap up the bargain. He contact the seller to make an offer and the response – from "Sarah" – seemed legitimate.
She wrote: "If this is going to be a quick sale, I will let it go for £3,250 delivered. The deal will go strictly according to eBay Buyer Protection rules and policy." But if John had checked the small print in eBay's Buyer Protection rules – which run to more than 9,000 words – he would have seen that vehicles are excluded.
Because "Sarah" was lying. Not just about the protection, but also about the existence of the car. The eBay ad was a scam. Keen to clinch the deal, John agreed to deposit the cash in a Barclays Bank account. He was reassured by the protection he thought was getting through eBay, and by the involvement of the global bank.
He's been let down by both – and quickly discovered he is not the only victim to be fleeced in exactly the same way. "I looked online for similar stories, and I reckon there's around 100 people who've been caught by the same scam, often by 'Sarah' and often using the same Barclays account," he says. Several victims tell their woeful stories on www.scamwarners.com.
"I told the bank about the problems in January. Yet other people have since paid money in good faith into the same account I did. But Barclays seems to have done nothing about it."
He is angry and wants his money back. When he contacted eBay, the giant auction house simply washed its hand of the affair by referring him to its small print, which excludes vehicles from its "protection".
Barclays has done much the same. In its response to John, the bank distanced itself from any responsibility and effectively blamed John himself.It said: "As you have willingly made this payment to the account, we recommend you pursue your claim for the return of funds to the police."
He contacted Thames Valley Police, but says there seems little they can do. His main ire is reserved for Barclays. We asked the bank to investigate John's claims. It told us: "When we were made aware of inappropriate conduct on these accounts, we immediately took the necessary steps to close them. We are unable to provide any refund for individuals who lost money before we were made aware of the situation."
Barclays continued: "Mr Knight could have chosen to use one of the three various payment methods, such as PayPal, Verified by Visa or a credit card, which would have provided a degree of protection."
The bank's response angered John even more. "It says it all," he says. "There are complaints from so many people over a long period of time who the bank has simply failed to protect. Barclays seems to have chosen to ignore the warnings.
"They were well aware but were either totally incompetent or just chose to ignore the situation," John says. "Barclays know the account I paid cash into is being used fraudulently and have let others be caught.
"I believe the bank should refund my money as, in my view, they are culpable." John remains £3,250 out of pocket, money he can't afford to lose. Others have lost even more.
With the scam still seemingly in operation, it seems we should not buy vehicles through eBay, and not trust an online stranger who asks for payment to be made to a bank account, particularly if it is Barclays.