A very close friend of mine was recently left five hundred pounds out of pocket.
He had advertised a brand new watch for £520 on Gumtree.com and arranged to meet up with the buyer. All seemed well. In fact, he described it a “smooth transaction”.
We bumped into each other in town the day after the sale and he told me how pleased he was that he had managed to sell the watch so quickly. As he counted the £20 notes- most of them new- I did a double- take. Not because I was surprised at the amount of money he had in his hands, but that something just wasn’t quite right- but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
“What’s wrong?”, he asked.
“Are you sure those are real?”, I joked.
“Yeah! Of course”, he replied dismissing any thought of them being fake.
We went to the bank together to pay the money in. Needing the loo he asked me to stay in the queue to pay it in for him whilst he dashed off quickly.
It was my turn at the counter.
“I’d like to pay this amount into this account, please”, I said.
The cashier, after holding the notes for less than a second, speedily looked up at me and quite bluntly said “These are fake”. I knew it! To my relief my friend returned and I explained what had happened. Only one of the notes was genuine- this was the old £20 note. He’d been had. The staff used various equipment to check all the notes, including a felt pen which detects genuine bank note paper. When genuine, the felt appears yellow on the note; when fake the felt turns the note a dark brown/ purple colour. All the notes, when tested, featured a purple scribble. They were certified fake.
After confiscating the fake notes the bank’s assistant manager had to write out a slip that stated they had seized the notes and confirmed the serial number of each note. Every note, of course, has to have a unique serial number, but to my horror 9 of them had the same, and 11 of them had another set of the same serial number. In fact none of them were unique. He gave us a copy of the document. There I stood, almost somewhat feeling like a criminal myself. I felt so sorry for my friend, so much so that I almost felt as if I was the one who had been swindled.
We were advised to take the document to the police, but were also told that there’d be no guarantee of getting the money back- my guess was that that outcome would be highly unlikely. My friend decided to just admit defeat and learn from his mistake- a £500 mistake.
What didn’t surprise me was that my friend, unfased by what had happened to him, immediately went online to buy a two-in-one UV pen with silver strip detector to check things not visible to the naked eye. He also got his very own felt pen to detect genuine bank note paper. Needless to say, he’s still selling on Gumtree, but now prefers eBay as its more secure as it’s regulated by PayPal.
Chee Ho Wan, Gumtree.com’s spokesperson gave the following statement:
“Gumtree recommends our users take extra care when dealing with high value items and apply the same rules online as they would offline. When meeting up to sell goods of high value users should ask for a banker’s draft rather than accept large amounts of cash. Unfortunately there are some unscrupulous people out there so this extra level of security should help users keep such incidences to a minimum.
“Counterfeiting is not just an internet challenge, it is a widespread global issue so it’s really important to use vigilance and common sense at all times when buying and selling goods.”
I was informed by another friend’s brother, who is admittedly involved in the underground scene, that there are actually loads of fake new £20 notes in circulation in the UK, probably hundreds of million pounds worth.
Now that is what you call once bitten, twice shy. My message to you all is be very vigilant.
Have a look at the Bank of England‘s website which clearly illustrates how to spot genuine notes.