There is a very real and fundamental problem with buying and selling anything using social media, identifying whether the person you are dealing with is legitimate. Think about it, normally when you find a trader or company they will have premises, registered offices, land lines. You may have responded to an advert or directory listing, all these things take time and money to set up.
Now let’s compare that with a Facebook Company page, which takes two minutes and no verification. In fact, you can set up a Facebook page for a fictitious company and then add hundreds of fake likes and reviews in an hour or so. The result can look extremely legitimate and representative of a well respected, reliable company or tradesman. It’s not hard to do and costs very little money, what is more if you’re reasonably careful almost impossible to trace back.
This is unfortunately what happened to Becky Szenk and her partner Mark Higgins when they moved from their flat in Wolverhampton.
They needed to find a inexpensive removal firm, and like many of us turned to the social media site Facebook to see if they could find someone. They managed to find one of those ‘man with a van’ services and immediately contacted them to book his services. Many of us do exactly the same, only last month I booked a roofing contractor who came up in a Facebook search. My experience was good despite my lack of care, however it was a very different story for Becky Szenk.
The removal guys turned up on time, and two of them quickly and efficiently loaded up their worldly possessions into a large transit van. What was notable was the speed in which they completed the task, loading up in about 45 minutes and driving off to the pub that they had invested their savings in. Or so they thought, in fact that was the very last time they saw their stuff – the men and their possessions were never seen again.
“I have never cried more in my life than I did on Friday afternoon – I am so distraught that they have taken my engagement ring and my baby’s toys.”
It’s not an isolated case, police have reported several similar incidents just within the West Midlands area of the UK. It is an easy crime to perpetrate, you can easily hide your tracks and the payoff can be extremely large – the possessions lost by Betty Szenk and her partner were estimated in the region of £10, 000.