Frank showed The BigChilli deposit slips, a sales contract and other evidence including the police report and police letter to his bank. To state the obvious, Frank wishes he had seen last year’s article before he turned over the money, but says he’s going public now because he wants to warn other foreigners about the scam. Through an internet search, Frank came across another website offering the same bikes that was nearly identical to the one advertising ‘his’ Lambretta, with small exceptions. Company name and email addresses are different, as are phone contact numbers (one number with Vietnam’s +84 country code, vs three numbers with Thailand’s +66 country code) but otherwise it’s a dead ringer, making it almost certain the same crooks are involved.
Chronology of events
“My partner Jon and I were interested in purchasing vintage, reconditioned Italian-made Lambretta and Vespa scooters. I made first contact through one very popular Thai website offering all kinds of goods and products, and opened a professionally done website offering these scooters on May 8,” Frank said.
“I sent them an e-mail ordering the Lambretta 1964 model L008, offered for US$2,600. Prices for all scooters shown on the website are in US dollars and converted to Thai currency by the seller. I asked for a few extras to be fitted on the scooter and these cost 14,000 baht. The seller agreed with the deal and told me to pay a 60% deposit, 63,740 baht, and the rest on delivery. I deposited the amount into a bank account at Bangkok Bank MEGA Bangna shopping mall in Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan province on May 10.
“I received a phone call that evening asking me to pay the balance of 33,500 baht the next day, as the seller needed the full payment in order to register the scooter in my name with the Department of Land and Transport. I agreed and paid the balance on May 11, making the total 97,240 baht.
“I asked the seller on several occasions to supply an invoice through the WhatsApp phone app, but never got it. On May 12, I had another phone conversation with the seller, who had an African accent. He asked for an extra 10,000 baht to deliver the scooter. I refused and asked for a full refund, and he said that the money would be refunded the next day. I had a feeling that would never happen, and I was right.
“Also on May 12, as I was feeling more and more like I had been scammed; I went to a police station in Samut Prakan to make a complaint. On May 13, I took a copy of the complaint and a letter from the police with a request to block the account I had transferred the money to and gave it to the manager at the Bangkok Bank branch at The Mall Bangkapi. The bank put a block on the account, meaning that money could be deposited but not withdrawn.” Frank found out through his own investigation that the account was opened under the name of Mr Nke Bobga Francis, a Cameroon national who was reportedly deported from Thailand last year.
Frank did receive from the seller a copy of a passport purportedly belonging to a Mr Pierluigi XXXX. This is the same passport used to scam the Brit buyer last year. The supposed owner of the passport is a man with an African accent who introduced himself as head of sales. “Obviously it is a lost or stolen passport the scammer is using to gain credibility with the customers. The Italian name goes well with the Vespa,” said Frank.
“The same man I had talked to before told me on May 16 that if I didn’t pay the extra 10,000 baht the scooter won’t be delivered. I asked him for a copy of the passport of the bank account holder and his address in Thailand. He just said: ‘Ha ha, if you don’t want to pay the 10,000 baht then don’t pay.’
“I later phoned the seller again and demanded that he give me either the money or the bike. He said: ‘When you pay the 10,000 baht, then I will tell you the date and time of delivery. If you don’t pay then don’t worry, just keep waiting.’ I told him that I had already paid 97,240 baht, and he said: ‘If you do not pay [the 10,000 baht] tonight I will not contact you again. This is your last chance.’
“I asked to see the scooter before I paid any more money, and he said: ‘Keep waiting to see the scooter and if you don’t pay by 7.30pm on May 16, you shall wish you paid. Take care, mate. Goodbye.’ That was the last conversation I had with the man.”
Frank said that the police was helpful. He also did some investigating
on his own and shared the results with the police. He didn’t want to disclose everything he found out to the The BigChilli, but did say the police told him they were waiting for a reply from the Immigration Bureau to their request to reveal the whereabouts of the scammer.
Frank said Bangkok Bank has been cooperative up to a point. “I was told that the money was withdrawn from an ATM machine in the Bangkapi area. The bank also told me that they can’t disclose additional information only to the police if they may a request.
“I also went to AIS to get information on the phone number of the seller, but they said they needed to wait for a request from the police,” he added.
Website takes action
Because of Frank’s actions, the director of the website where the scammer was advertising is now aware of the scam and has banned all ads offering “Vintage Lambretta” or anything resembling this heading. “The scammer has since tried to put up new ads but with no success, because when the application is spotted it is a no-go,” Frank said. He presented two messages he received from the director on May 15. Here are excerpts from those messages:
“The ad placed for Lambretta was a free ad so there were no payment details given. The only personal details given were a phone number and email address which I assume would be the details you already have. The email given was: Australiaxxxxxxx@gmail.com.” Another popular item on the website, curiously enough, is the sale of dogs, another common ruse for African scammers as they will ask for a deposit on pups not born yet.
“We have deleted and banned the user’s account so I am afraid the ad can’t be recovered. In my experience the ad will not reveal much as it will be all fake information. I have noticed they keep attempting to make new ads under new accounts. If they do so I will share the details with you. The African accent should have been a big red flag for you.”