New York Times best-selling author traps scammer into revealing his identity
CTSI issues warning for consumers to be on their guard
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has urged the public to be vigilant amid housing scams on social media platforms. Well known for having written 18 New York Times best-sellers with over 10 million books in print in over 25 languages, Jane Green has come forward to share her story in the hope that it prevents others from falling victim to the same unscrupulous scams.
Jane’s son was a student at St. Andrews University and had been looking online for accommodation for his next year amongst many other students due to a housing shortage in St. Andrews. Jane’s son believed he had found the perfect flat advertised on Facebook. They spoke to the ‘landlord’ of the flat on the phone who was described as very charming and explained that they had received 54 applications but they had chosen Jane’s son. To secure the flat, they needed to pay a deposit by the end of the day.
In the panic of trying to secure the flat, Jane had forgotten to check with her son that he had received a lease and signed it before sending over a deposit of £2250 via bank transfer to the ‘landlord’. An hour later, the ‘landlord’ called Jane to explain that he had made a mistake and that he needed her to pay the first months rent in addition to the deposit. At this point, Jane began to feel that something might not be quite right but with the concern that they might not be able to find other accommodation for her son, she paid another lump sum to the ‘landlord’.
Jane then began to do some research into the companies the ‘landlord’ had said he was affiliated with and discovered that they do not actually exist and that she had in fact been scammed. In total, Jane lost almost £4000 to the fraudster.
Jane decided to play the scammer at his own game to find out his true identity and convinced him to video call with her, under the pretence that she would need to video call him to transfer more money to him to make up the full sum for the months rent. When she got him on the call, she screenshotted images of his face and put them on blast to her 160,000 social media followers. Within an hour Jane had heard from eight people who recognised him or had previously been scammed by him. From information provided by her followers, Jane discovered that her scammer was serial fraudster who has had previous convictions for similar offenses, he is also the son of a famous Scottish businessman and MBE.
CTSI Lead Officer for Scams Doorstep Crime and Consumer Vulnerability, Katherine Hart, said: “Opportunistic scammers relentlessly exploit individuals' personal circumstances whenever a chance arises, which means anyone can fall victim to a scam. Fortunately, there are some fundamental things you can do to protect yourself:
- always look at reviews, verified reviews are a good indicator of a reputable seller
- do some research into the landlord/business before engaging with them
- don’t be rushed into making a decision and handing over money
- opt for using protected payment schemes such as credit cards, debit cards and the likes of PayPal, Klarna etc, which provide added protection and recourse to reclaim funds if something goes wrong
- if you are a victim of a scam on Facebook, make sure you report it to the platform as they have a responsibility to look into it”
John Herriman, Chief Executive of CTSI, said: “Online scammers are very skilled at making their ruse seem real and playing to consumers needs. In this example, the scammer prayed on Jane’s desperation caused by needing to find accommodation for her son to rush her into making a decision. Key things to remember when looking for properties using online platforms are: review, research and never rush. CTSI urge online platforms to be hyper-vigilant to the presence of scammers on their sites and to pursue action swiftly to protect consumers when notified of these issues.
“As ever, we encourage consumers to remember that there nothing to be embarrassed about if they think they have been a victim of a scam. It’s important to report it as soon as possible so Trading Standards can provide you with the help and support that you need. Jane impressively managed to uncover the identity of her scammer by taking to social media to talk about her experience. It is important to share your experiences if you do fall victim to a scam, silence only ever benefits the scammer.”
For consumer advice, please call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.
To report scams in England and Wales, contact Action Fraud. In Scotland, contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 800 9060, or if in Northern Ireland, call Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.
The public is encouraged to join Friends Against Scams, a National Trading Standards initiative aiming to protect and prevent people from becoming scam victims by empowering them to take a stand against scams.
Notes to editors:
Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)
- The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) is a national not for profit established in 1881 which supports the UK’s trading standards profession, and works to protect consumers and safeguard honest businesses. CTSI's members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services at local authorities and in businesses. www.tradingstandards.uk#
- Jane Green is a renowned author having 18 NY best sellers and with over 10 million books in print in over 25 languages. She is also an Advice Columnist for the Daily Mail Online called “Dear Jane”. Read more here.
- A picture of the scam advert available upon request.
- Please contact CTSI Press Office: email@example.com for any queries.