Shoppers are being warned of the risks of buying goods from strangers on the street after trading standards officers learned of a woman who was conned out of hundreds of pounds in a scam in central Croydon on a busy Saturday morning.
The incident unfolded at the junction of Surrey Street and Scarbrook Road in mid-March, when the woman shopper was approached by a middle-aged man who told her that he was selling a laptop computer and an Apple iPhone in order to raise cash to pay some bills. He claimed to have recently bought the laptop for £1,100, and had a receipt as proof of the purchase.
Agreeing to buy both items, the woman withdrew £300 from a nearby cash dispenser and went with the man to a car parked nearby in Scarbrook Road where, he said, the laptop, receipt and phone were.
Sitting in the car – a dark blue estate – was another man, introduced to her as the first man’s brother-in-law. A laptop computer and an iPhone were shown to the woman and then put into a laptop case, at which point she handed over £320 in cash.
The woman was then distracted when a council parking officer arrived to tell the driver to move the car, and when the first man asked her for her telephone number. She was then given a black laptop bag which, upon opening it when she got home, she discovered contained only two large bottles of fizzy drink and some cardboard padding.
The first man, who was friendly and charming throughout, is described as being white, in his mid-40s, about 5’ 8” tall, of medium build, and wearing a winter woolly hat. His “brother-in-law” was slightly younger, a bit shorter than the first man, and was also wearing a woolly hat. Each had an Irish accent.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“This was a brazen scam carried out in broad daylight by a pair of very confident, and seemingly plausible, conmen.
“People should never buy goods from anybody who approaches them in the street – the chances are they’ll be scammed, and they have no way of knowing what they’re buying, or where it’s come from. As happened in this case, the goods they think they’re buying could be switched, and, if they’re not, they could be stolen, faulty or unsafe.
“Anybody who’s offered goods in this manner should always refuse to buy, and then they should report the incident to the police.”