An Ebay fraudster who managed to evade a police investigation last year has struck again.
The Ebay seller offered goods for sale on the online auction site and received payments by postal order but never sent the goods to buyers.
Despite police involvement he was able to continue his scam, conning nearly 200 more people last month. However the number may be higher and police believe that his auctions have raked in more than £170,000 since last September.
The alarm was first raised last September when people bid for non-existent sports clothing and goods and computer hardware from an Ebay seller called 'Sidozey'.
Among the feedback on this account we found some purchases of rare classical CDs. By contacting the sellers we found that these had been paid for by, and sent to, one Tony Overington in London.
West Yorkshire Police were alerted to the scam because a number of people in the area were victims. PC Marcus Harper, who led this investigation, was told by Ebay that Mr Overington had claimed his account had been hijacked. The matter was then not investigated further.
However West Yorkshire police did seize £11,000 from the Wakefield address and returned money to 153 complainants. The matter was then passed on to the Met.
Ebay has confirmed to us Sidozey’s account is now suspended.
“We are satisfied that the case you've highlighted to us is not an account takeover – whereby a genuine user's account is taken over by a fraudster – but instead appears to be fraudulent activity by a single seller.
"We've taken immediate steps to suspend this person from our site and we can confirm that our fraud investigations team is conducting further investigations, which may lead to a criminal prosecution."
Buyers taken in by the first scam were asked to send a blank postal order to an M Joy at the address of a mail-forwarding company in Wakefield. From here the postal orders were sent to another mail-forwarding company, W1 Office, at 26 York Street, London, W1U 6PZ.
The postal orders were than cashed at London’s Baker Street Post Office, according to the police and victims. When we contacted W1 Office a director said that a Tony Overington had worked there but had left about a week earlier.
In the latest fraud, buyers were asked to send postal orders to one Peter Dawood at the same York Street address. The postal orders were again cashed in Baker Street Post Office.
W1 Office said the mail forwarding account has now been closed and all post received for Peter Dawood has been returned to the senders. The company said it would be working with the police to help the investigation.
We tracked down Mr Overington's mobile phone number and two email addresses but he has not responded to our requests to contact us about the matter.
The scam is currently being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.
However, the experience of Matthew Pountney, one of the latest victims of the Ebay fraudster, illustrates how confusing reporting these frauds can be for consumers.
"When I called my local force to report the crime I was told to report it to the Internet Watch Foundation," he told us.
Victims of this scam are also furious that Ebay didn't do more to protect them and shut Sidozey down earlier.
Rory Miller, one of the moderators of a forum set up for the victims, said: "I'd say, along with everybody else, probably, that Ebay has been seriously remiss and handled the whole thing dreadfully, from start to finish.
"Number one, they were warned of the scam by two separate sources, on the 15 and 18 March, long before many people sent in any money.
"Number two, it seems like whatever you say to them in an email, they just reply with pro forma messages that don't address the issue at all, and just make us feel more and more ignored.
"Worst of all, though, is how they immediately wrote it off as a hijacking and removed all negative feedback, without any real investigation, as far as I can see."
Ebay gave the reason that it couldn't act the first time as initially there was no indication the account had not been hijacked and the police had not asked it to suspend the account.
This latest fraud shows how the lack of a central reporting unit makes it difficult for the police to monitor fraud online, even when it is carried out in the UK.
Although frauds such as the current one can net the criminal many thousands of pounds, individual losses tend to be less than £100. With no easy way to collate these crimes they don’t get followed up because of a lack of police resources.
Although the House of Lords select committee on personal internet security recently called on the Government to provide £1.5m of funding for a new e-crime coordination unit, there is still no sign this will happen any time soon. When we checked for an update, the Home Office said the matter was still under discussion.
Shadow home secretary David Davis sent us this statement: "The Government’s decision to axe the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and prevent online fraud being reported directly to the police has created a double inertia in trying to tackle e-crime.
“It has left a yawning gap in the police's operational capability as well as making it almost impossible for the average person to report online fraud.
“That is why Conservatives would create a new Police National Cybercrime Unit as well as establish a Fraud and Cybercrime Complaint Centre to help the police and the public tackle this growing problem."
Author: Dinah Greek