The Pain of Admitting That You Have Been Conned

It is hard, as a reasonably intelligent person, to admit that you allowed yourself to be conned.

Here’s the story.

I happened upon an invitation to take a short survey. My interest in such things is unutterably minuscule, but on this occasion I was tempted by a freebie for completing the survey, which was an ecig starter kit. The kit was free, but you were asked to pay the postage cost. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THERE AND THEN!!!! WHY WAS I NOT ALERTED BY MY BRAIN???? So I completed the survey and clicked on the free starter kit and paid the postage with my debit card. That was 21st March. A few days later, the kit arrived. I was somewhat disappointed to find that it was a cig-alike but it was free (apart from the postage) so why bother? I have not used it. It is still in the box.

On 4th April, my bank account was hit with a debit of £79.99 from ‘vprcigs’. WTF? Having been on holiday, I have had no reason to check my bank account until a couple of days ago. My pensions are paid into that account and so there are always ample funds for average transactions. So I back-tracked further in the statement to when I paid the postage. The cost was £4.95 and paid to on 21st March.

Needless to say, I had no recollection of what the survey was about or where it originated from. From my internet browsing history, I have discovered that I did a survey for Tiscali. I so rarely do such surveys that I can only think that must have been the one. That was the 20th March, which makes sense. I clicked on that entry in the history and, guess what?, next time I looked, the item had disappeared from the history and been replaced by ‘Error bla, bla’. Incredible, is it not? There is now no reference in my google history of the Tiscali survey. It seems also likely that that survey popped up while I was on Ebay. It seems that Ebay, Amazon, and similar sites, are favourite places for such scams.

Knowing no better, if something like that appears on a trusted site like Ebay, your instincts tend to be dulled.

And so I telephoned the bank, Lloyds/TSB as was, and got through to the fraud dept. I explained the circumstances and said that I had most certainly not authorised the payment of £79.99. I found the response to be strange. It was, words to the effect, “Did to agree to the terms and conditions?” What could I say? What terms and conditions? All I did was select the freebie and pay the postage. I seems that I may inadvertently have accepted the terms and conditions, which may have contradicted the idea of ‘freebie’. If that were so, then the freebie was not be a freebie at all. I would have committed to paying the full price ‘in the small print’.

“CRAP!”, I responded (although not in those terms). This is a very simple example of FRAUD. I recall nothing about terms and conditions. There was absolutely nothing complex about the freebie offer. The lady at the bank was very nice, but she was not having anything that I said. She did not accept that it was fraud.

Some readers will remember that I used to manage a branch of the TSB. I am aware of what goes on. We were instructed to ‘resist’ claims from customers that some unknown person had taken money out of their accounts via cash machines. The detail is not important; what is important is that the whole point was to absolve the Bank of blame.

So I think that the rather cold conversation with the lady in ‘Fraud’ was entirely intended to absolve the Bank of blame so that I could not demand that the fraudulent transaction, unauthorised by me, be reversed and my account balance restored. There is some sense to that in that frauds of one sort or another are perpetrated every day. If you get conned and pay for junk, it is your own fault. How can a Bank protect you from your own stupidity? But this situation is not that simple. The reason that it is not that simple is because of ‘intention’. My clear intention was to pay the postage and nothing else. The use of my card details for anything else is FRAUD. Pure and simple. But I do not know who the fraudsters are. The Banks do. The recipient Bank which receive the payment of £79.99 know precisely who the fraudsters are.

So what is the simple thing for my Bank to do? It is to operate the same process as it does with direct debits – recall the payment.

To top it all, the Fraud lady then informed me that there was another payment going through today which had not yet appeared on my statement for £59.99 paid to ECIGARETTEPUFF 08006524938 GB.

I said to the lady ‘STOP THAT PAYMENT. Clearly, it makes no sense for me to have authorised such a payment in view of what we have been talking about.’ Erm… Cannot do so.

“And what is to stop these people from stealing hundreds of pounds from my account, for heaven’s sake?’ says I. “We will block transactions from those sources”, she says. “But, clearly, they are using various sources!!!”, I cry.

Cutting a very long story short, because I was passed around from one dept to another three times, I finally arrived at ‘Lost and Stolen Cards’. At least the guy there was not ‘cold’ – there was ’empathy’. He cancelled my current card and organised an immediate replacement which I expect tomorrow. He set up a ‘dispute’ complaint about the FRAUDULENT transactions. We shall see.

But I am sure that readers will see where I am going to. I shall not let this go. NO WAY! Absolutely not. You see, the debit card is not actually mine. It belongs to the Bank. I have the use of it. Think back to the olden days when you opened a bank savings account.  The bank supplied you with a bank book. When you paid money into your account, your bank book was updated. That bank book was not yours. It belonged to the bank. You ‘borrowed’ it. The same applies to credit and debit cards. They are not actually yours. You may hold the piece of plastic, but the Bank can render it useless at any time. It is not yours in the sense that pound notes are yours. The bank can stop you using your debit card to withdraw money from a cash machine at the press of a button.

I do not mind that at all. It is perfectly reasonable. But there comes a point where FRAUD rears its head, and it is incumbent upon the Bank to marshal all its forces to DESTROY the fraudsters. Not to sidestep them and allow its customers to suffer, but to hit them head on.

It really is something like Tobacco Control, Climate Control, Islamist Appeasement, is it not? IN EVERY CASE, it is the little guy who gets ripped off. It is the little guys who get mown down by big lorries driven by Zealots. It is the little guys who get blown up. I wonder what would happen if the whole French Parliament was blown up by some insane Zealot and all the delegates were killed?

It is not acceptable to say that such an event is impossible. The important thing is that the thought that it is possible. It does not have to be a perfect attack – only ten dead politicians would suffice.

As usual, I have drifted.

I am ashamed that I allowed myself to be conned, but I thought that it was worth sharing, despite the shame.


I understand that ‘Harleyrider’ has died. I am very saddened. We share the same surname and addressed each other as ‘cousins’. I suppose that it must ultimately be true if you went back far enough. He was more than a staunch defender of individual rights. He was a courageous American who fought for the USA in the Army – or was it the Navy?

He was one brave and resolute man.


17 Responses to “The Pain of Admitting That You Have Been Conned”

  1. TheBlockedDwarf Says:

    I don’t think you need to feel in anyway embarrassed about having been conned. These low lifes have gotten , I think , everyone who has ever used the internet at some point. Some, like Amazon Prime have raised the pre-approved payment ‘scam’ to an art form. I too clicked on a link on ebay to a ‘news’ story and then had to spend hours on the phone with somewhere in the Bahamas getting the order cancelled.
    And even then my own bank recommended I destroy my card.

    What sad news about Harleyrider, he will be sorely missed on the smoking blogs 😦

    • thelastfurlong Says:

      I once bought something on my credit card legitimately from China. Perfect transaction. Within a month Halifax Fraud Squad phoned ME. There had been an attempt to take £2000 from that same card.They had stopped it by cancelling the card immediately and issuing a new one. I had not bought anything else on it, so it must only have been as a result of my legit transaction!

      One gets jumpy about these things.

      Yesterday I stopped at a card machine to get £20 to repay my sister money I had borrowed. Mr Furlong NEVER uses those machines because, here, where we live, tiny remote cameras have been discovered attached to them. I lay in bed last night worrying.

      With your story – £79 or so is not a “suspicious” amount like £2000, so I think it’s theft in unobtrusive amounts. Must happen to many, many people who might not even notice!

      Thanks for the warning.

      Sorry about Harley.

    • junican Says:

      Well, Yes, that is very much the problem. Small amounts do not attract attention, but, if there are enough of them, they add up to massive sums.

  2. inisfad Says:

    I’m sorry that this happened to you, and am sure that it has happened to many others, conned by not reading ‘terms and conditions’. Something similar happened to me, where I gave a donation, and, not reading the small print, did not realize it was RECURRING every 12 months. I was able to cancel it. However, in your circumstance, the lesson to be learned is one word: PAYPAL. You should NEVER give your credit card details to an unknown vendor. Set up a Paypal account!! 🙂

    • junican Says:

      In effect, inisfad, you are saying don’t buy anything without certainty of secure payment. But how would you know if Paypal has been hacked? If a Government can be hacked, what is to stop a Bank from being hacked?
      But you are perfectly right about caution.

    • beobrigitte Says:

      I am one of the people who run into problems with paypal. Never used it since.
      Set your browser secret surfing (that way you don’t get the cookies of annoying online firms who want to sell you stuff) and be cautious when buying.
      I refuse to buy wherever they want my mobile phone number. If my house number (withheld numbers identified by ring tone) is not good enough I won’t buy. That simple.

      • junican Says:

        Not a problem that I have experienced, Beo. I have never experienced problems with Paypal.
        But I do not think that we expect the same sort of protection from Paypal as we expect from our banks. You buy something using Paypal. All you expect from Paypal is that it is an intermediary between your bank account and the other person’s. Also, Paypal does not reveal the details of your card or bank account.
        Sure, you can be frauded by thieves using Paypal, but not easily or repeatedly.

  3. smokingscot Says:

    I know it’s a case of after the horse has bolted, however out of curiosity I Googled it and it’s been going on for some time – 2010 on.

    This place gives a scenario similar to yours.

    And a simple Google search turned up this lot:

    If it’s of any consolation, it’s because of warnings from the likes of yourself that we don’t fall for the same con. In fact I can say in all sincerity that advice from bloggers and commentators has been invaluable.


  4. junican Says:

    I googled the fraudsters’ names. There are reports about tricks, but the businesses seem to be legit.
    The fact is that I DID receive a starter kit through the post. I have not used it. What I know for certain, regardless of ‘terms and conditions’, is that I was never told of the potential cost (£79.99) at any stage. The second debit (£59.99) is completely out of the blue. It is still a ‘pending’ transaction, which has not yet been applied.
    I was not the recipient of any information whatsoever. The starter kit comprised a ‘cig-alike’ machine and ten cartridges which are suppose to supply the equivalent of 20 cigs each. Have the fraudsters separated, in their ‘terms and conditions’, the machine from the juices? Have I paid £79.99 for the machine and £59.99 for the equivalent of 200 cigs?
    I do not know and was never informed.

  5. Lollylulubes Says:

    I’ve only been aware of such scams with beauty creams and just recently with vitamins, where you pay the postage on a free pot of cream/vitamins. Then the tiny small print says that if you decide to keep it and don’t return it within 10 days of purchase, you will receive a new pot every month at an exorbitant fee. I hadn’t noticed the miniscule small print ts&cs with the cream but, thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones only because I Googled it to see if it was reviewed as being as amazing as advertised and found out it was a scam. Because of that, I now make sure to either Google ‘reviews’ and ‘scam’ or I ignore such ads, but it’s so easy to be taken in by these people.

    I would have thought the 3rd payment you were about to be charged of £59.99 should be for 10 more cartridges (a ridiculously inflated price) and that would be intended to be charged every month going forward. Sometimes these fraudsters get away with it for several months, as it seems some people don’t regularly check their bank accounts. I would double check to see if the £59.99 goes out as I once rang the bank to stop a direct debit going out the next day, but was told it was too late to stop it as it was already in progress.

    So sorry to hear about Harley.

    • junican Says:

      I think that you are almost right about the third payment, except that it was payment for the FIRST supply of cartridges.
      If those suppliers are legitimate, and they have websites, then they are engaging willingly in fraud. The ecig package which I received had the most minuscule documentation – a badly reproduced sheet with instructions for use and an acknowledgement of the payment of the postage. Absolutely nothing about about subsequent costs.

      I have read that these sort of cons are costing consumers hundreds of millions of pound per an. But Gov seems to think that funding ASH ET AL does not add to the confidence trick costs.

  6. beobrigitte Says:

    The criminals are almost always a step ahead of you, e.g. tobacco control?

    A couple of days ago I was hit by a fraudster. The thing with me is that I do not respond as they expect to THREATS!

    Here is what I posted at Frank’s a couple of days ago:

    However, today I encountered something sinister when somebody assumed someone else’s identity. I would not write about it if I thought I was the only one being called.
    It’s also the forcefulness and intimidation with which this guy operates. God help the ones who are easily scared!

    It all is a bit lengthy, so I apologize. Apparently it is yet another scam with only one difference to previous ones. The caller is demanding and threatening.

    At ca. 09:00 hrs my house phone rang with the usual English double ring. My phone does identify withheld calls by ring tone so I never answer these.
    On the phone was some foreign sounding gentlemen who informed me that he was a BT service engineer and that I had a problem with my internet.
    “Nice try, mate. Don’t bother phoning me again.” And I hung up.

    At about 15:30 hrs my house phone rings again with the usual English double ring. When I answered it was the same guy again, telling me he would cut off my internet if I wasn’t going to give him access to my computer to fix the internet problem.
    So I decided to play a little game. I told the guy rather firmly that I would require a phone number as I need to verify that the call is legitimate. He was a little reluctant and began to get threatening. (Or maybe it was a guy who thinks he can treat women the way he wants.) When I told him rather firmly that I wasn’t giving him access to my computer without verification, he was actually dumb enough to give me an 0207 number. (You may check on google about this).
    I said: “Thank you” and put the phone down.
    On dialing another number straight after I was given the phone number of this caller. It started with 0061, which I believe is Australia. (No, I do not believe he is situated in Australia; you can disguise your number over the internet)

    I went in search for an official BT number and firstly encountered a voice recognition software which wanted to know the reason for my call. “Oh, for fuck’s sake” brought me the response that my reason for the call was not recognised. So I said “Scammer call”. Back came “Fraudulent activity?” “Yes”.
    I finally got to speak to a REAL person. HURRAY!!!!
    I explained the situation and the lady wanted to check the call log, so I gave her both numbers (the one the guy gave me and the one I found out), told her how I got them and she seemed ever so happy about it. She did mention that there were other callers about the same thing today.

    Hopefully at least the one who bought the 0207 number can be traced! Anybody else receiving similar calls, please do what I did.

    The anti-smokers made me being cautious. Also, NEVER say YES to a question asked by some weird caller. And that includes his/her first question: “Can you hear me?”
    You will have verbally agreed to have bought some expensive thing.
    I have said by now 3 time: “Idiot”. And then put the phone down.

    • junican Says:

      I have a technique. When the phone rings, and I pick up the handset and say, ‘Hello’, if nothing happens for a second or so, and then there is a sort of ‘click’, and a person asks, ‘Can I speak WITH X’, I say “No” and put the phone down. Over several months, the number of such calls has dramatically reduced.
      The horrible thing is that these calls have persisted for so long that I no longer really want to have a phone.

      • michaeljmcfadden Says:

        I’ve basically made it clear to people that the way to contact me is through email. I keep my landline phone turned off and check it about once a week to see if I’ve gotten any “real” phone calls. When it’s plugged in I’ll get an average of a half dozen or more spam calls a day.

        – MJM, not a phonee

  7. michaeljmcfadden Says:

    ” “Can you hear me?”
    You will have verbally agreed to have bought some expensive thing.”

    Just keep answering “No!” LOL! I can just imagine after the third “No.” them asking “If you can’t hear me how are you able to answer me?” At which point you can say, “I don’t know, can you hear me?”


    If they say yes, say “Ah HAH! Thank you! You have now admitted to fraudulent larceny in the first degree on my tape recording system and will be subject to up to TEN YEARS in prison!”



    • junican Says:

      Have you been drinking chocolate juice again, MjM?

      Perhaps a proper reply might be be: “I charge a fee of £10 ($15) per minute for listening to your call. Kindly provide me with your bank account details for my charges to be applied”.
      I suspect that the disconnection tone will sound.

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