Since the advent of the internet, we don’t have to look too far to find evidence of scams, cons and various forms of phishing. Let’s face it; who doesn’t still get the occasional email from the odd Nigerian general, with $25,000,000 to invest, who needs their help. Those things haven’t changed in the last 10 years, and they must still work, or they wouldn’t bother sending them out.
Unfortunately, there is a relatively new form of scam that has caught out a lot of people recently, and appears to be on the increase. It has been around for a while, but started out mostly in the area of vehicles and, for some reason, agricultural machinery. These days, the scammers are targeting any expensive items, which includes motorhomes, caravans, and, of course, folding campers.
The basis of the scam here, is that the scammers find an item for sale, or recently sold, say, on Gumtree, they then copy all the details and pictures and put it for sale on Ebay. Next they persuade the buyer to pay upfront (easier than you would imagine, as you’ll see below) promising to deliver the item as soon as payment is received. Needless to say they never do.
Probably the top five common factors in these adverts are;
(1) They are always based somewhere remote (to discourage viewings of an item that doesn’t exist). Scotland is the most popular location with them, currently.
(2) Rarely, if ever, do they have any feedback or other items for sale, as they are not genuine sellers.
(3) They always insist on payment by PayPal, never cash on collection.
(4) They always insist on delivering the goods. Many of the newer ones will even have the cheek to charge for it.
(5) The earlier scams were dead easy to spot, as the were always at a stupid price, way below market value, to lure in the unwary. Some of the later ones still do that, but, often, now, they will be on an auction basis, but with a very low start price, and / or no reserve. Only someone very inexperienced or very desperate will sell an expensive item like that with no kind of minimum price in place, to protect themselves.
If you see an advert that has all of these you can be pretty much rock solid certain it’s a scam. Another thing to watch for is that the seller will always insist that you contact them outside of eBay, to arrange delivery etc, and will, normally, provide either a phone number or email to allow you to do so. This is another indicator that the transaction is suspect, as they do this to prevent the eBay Admin from monitoring them, but, perhaps more significantly, eBay / PayPal rules specifically state that they will not cover you against fraud etc where the transaction is conducted outside of their own web site(s). Conducting any business outside of eBay, automatically, negates any protection, regardless of the other circumstances of the transaction.
What you have to bear in mind is that these scams are not designed to fool all of the people all of the time. They are aimed at a section of the population who are not aware of the nature of these scams. It’s all very well saying, as many do; “You go to the sellers address, pay cash and tow it away” but it doesn’t work like that, unfortunately. They always have a very plausible reason why you can’t do that. Yes, maybe, many of us would then walk away, but many don’t, and, the reason for this is the reason these scams are on the increase in places like eBay, where payment protection is, apparently, offered through PayPal. The scammers tell you that you have nothing to lose. They tell you that PayPal hold your money until the goods are delivered, then they pay the seller when the goods are received. That is the fundamental problem, as many people have paid, thinking their money is safe, but, of course, it’s not. The funds are drawn out by the seller, who disappears, along with the non existent item.
To be fair, it is always sound advice to view any folding camper, genuine or not, before buying, and our Used Folding Camper Buyers Guide is designed to help you do things properly. It is naive in the extreme to pay for anything like this upfront, without even seeing it, but it does happen a lot, and the assurance of protected payment goes a long way towards persuading people to do so. Also, the items will often be sold as nearly new, leading potential buyers to assume that there is unlikely to be too much wrong with them.
Many people have lost thousands of pounds on scams like these already. They’re not that difficult to spot, but only if you know what to look for. Next time you see what that looks like a real bargain; just run through the 5 point checklist above. If it fails, then walk away. Even if it doesn’t, always remember; never pay for something you haven’t seen, unless you can afford to lose that money. Not all such adverts are scams, but with the incidence of these increasing significantly, the numbers are not in your favour, should you chose to risk it.
Although unrelated to folding campers, this recent Mail Online article gives a little more insight into some of the problems that people have encountered recently.