Consumer rights: Search for love ends in dating website scam
Thieves are finding more sophisticated ways of taking your money...Returning goods that aren't faulty
Sunday 13 February 2011
I've very stupidly been caught out in what I think was a scam.
I decided to try internet dating and after a few false starts got in contact with someone I really seemed to hit it off with. We spent more and more time chatting and he was very keen for us to meet. He told me he was working in Nigeria but that he had some leave coming up soon and he wanted to come to see me. Then he told me he was booking flights. Next he said that his visit would be delayed because his pay was late going into the bank but not to worry as the problem would soon be sorted. This went on for a few days and eventually he said that his money was sorted out but would take a couple of weeks to reach his account by which time his break would be over. He suggested I send him some money and he would pay me back when he got here. He wasn't demanding I sent money and we were getting on very well, so I sent the money for his flights. Then he delayed again and asked for more money. At that point I felt something was wrong and said I didn't have any more cash. He hasn't been in touch since. I've asked him to send my money back but nothing. I don't suppose I'll ever see that money again. Is there anything I can do?
Your analysis is spot on. There are a lot of these scams going around and of course this one is successful because it plays on people's emotions. You weren't stupid, just hoping to meet someone nice, and the way he built up the excitement about his impending visit was clever. You're just lucky you heard warning bells before you lost even more money. The Office of Fair Trading says nearly one person in every 20 lost money to a scam last year. They are trying to raise awareness of all the various scams. Do you think this is one person using dating sites as a way to part people from their money or that the site is a scam? If you think the site is being abused, you must tell the people running it and report this to your local Trading Standards Office or Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or at consumerdirect. gov.uk. The advice is never to send money to anyone or any organisation you don't know well or can't check out. Sadly this kind of things makes us cynical. I'd bet you have no chance of getting your money back and it's been an expensive experience, but you won't get scammed again in a hurry.
I've had a row with my local tile shop and can't get a resolution. I bought floor tiles two weeks ago on the understanding that if they didn't suit when I got them home I could take them back and get my money back. When I looked at them on the bathroom floor the colour wasn't as good a match for the walls as I'd thought so I took them back. The salesperson flatly refused to give me the money back. When I explained that the person who'd sold me the tiles had assured me I could have a refund she said that simply wouldn't happen because it wasn't the firm's policy.
Another sales assistant who was there on both occasions refused to help and claimed not to have heard the original discussion despite being right next to me at the counter. I got cross at the way I was treated and the discussion got heated. There's no way I would have spent the money if I hadn't been told I could take the tiles back and I feel as if I'm being called a liar. There aren't any others in the shop that are a better match but she won't budge and I don't know what to do next. What are my rights?
In normal circumstances if you buy something which is fit for it's purpose and not faulty you are entitled to a refund or an exchange only if the shop agrees. It sounds as if someone has taken it upon themselves to agree to a refund when the shop's policy isn't usually so generous. The problem with agreements that are out of the ordinary is that people forget they've made them, and if they aren't put in writing there's no proof. Ask to talk to the person who originally served you or to someone higher up the management chain.
If that doesn't help you'll have to decide whether it's worth taking a case against the shop to claim your money back on the grounds that they've breached an agreement. To do that successfully you'd have to convince the judge that your account of the transaction is true and the shop's account isn't. That might be difficult if the shop employees all stick together.
You don't say how much money the tiles cost. If it's a small amount it may be better to mark this down to experience and see if anyone you know could use the tiles. If it's a large sum you might feel it is worthwhile pursuing it. Set out all the details of your case in writing with dates and times, descriptions of the original sales assistant and anything else you can remember that might be relevant. Say that if the shop doesn't stick to its agreement and refund your money within 14 days you will take legal advice with a view to making a claim in court under the process for making small claims. If that doesn't do the trick you could ask a solicitor to send another letter. That might change the manager's mind. After all, it will be cheaper to pay the refund to you and still have the tiles for resale than to spend time and money defending against your claim.
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