A retired couple were forced to fight Amazon for 18 months to claw back £195 after fraudsters hacked into their account and bought computer equipment without their knowledge.
John and Dell Lavers, from Plymouth, have only used the online retail giant to buy inexpensive items, such as a mobile phone cover, a watch strap and a few CDs.
But, when checking their bank statements in January last year, they noticed a rogue payment of £194.59 for an Amazon order they didn’t recognise.
The couple immediately alerted their bank, Lloyds.
A Plymouth couple were charged £194.59 for an expensive computer part they hadn’t ordered and didn’t receive – but Amazon insisted it had been delivered
After investigating, it found that the charge was for a Black Edition Octa Core CPU — a powerful computer processor that looks a bit like a Sky box.
John, 71, a former quality assurance consultant, says: ‘I only use our computer for sending emails and researching family history, so I wouldn’t know the front end from the back end of whatever it is.’
The bank believed the Lavers had not ordered or received the processor and quickly refunded the money.
The couple thought that was the end of it — but, two months later, Lloyds took the £195 back out of their joint bank account.
The bank said Amazon had provided a dispatch note, which showed the item had been sent to the Lavers’s address. This proved that the order was not fraudulent.
In a letter seen by Money Mail, Lloyds said: ‘After reviewing the information together with our fraud department, I regret we are unable to take any further action as we feel the merchant provided sufficient evidence that the transactions were genuine and charged correctly.’
John and Dell, 72, couldn’t believe it and took their case to the Financial Ombudsman, which is responsible for resolving disputes between banks and customers.
But the Ombudsman wouldn’t help them, either. It would only consider whether Lloyds had acted fairly when making its decision, which it believed the bank had.
The Ombudsman doesn’t have the power to force retailers such as Amazon to investigate cases further and provide evidence.
So the Lavers decided to take matters into their own hands. After scrutinising the dispatch note given by Amazon to Lloyds, they noticed an IP address.
This 12-digit code shows the location of someone’s computer.
By typing ‘What is my IP address’ into Google, they found that their IP address is different to the one on the dispatch note.
This proved the item had been ordered from a different computer to their own.
The couple asked Amazon who owned the IP address on the dispatch note, but didn’t receive an answer.
They then asked whether the firm had contacted the seller and, if so, why they had not been instructed to respond to their emails, as per Amazon’s rules when there is a dispute.
They requested evidence of proof of delivery, too, as the dispatch note didn’t prove that any item had arrived — only that it had left the warehouse.
Still Amazon failed to respond to any of their questions.
It wasn’t until Money Mail contacted Lloyds and Amazon that the firms agreed to refund the money.
John and Dell Lavers only use Amazon to buy inexpensive items – but they were charged £195 for a high-tech computer part they never ordered
John says: ‘Both Lloyds and Amazon claim that they conducted a full investigation — but we don’t see how they could have and still come to this conclusion.
‘This could also be happening to other people and the sums involved could be life-changing.
‘Amazon and Lloyds should be more concerned about this and I don’t think that they are.’
Gary Rycroft, a partner at the law firm Joseph A. Jones & Co, says the Lavers’s situation is a ‘cautionary tale’. He says: ‘Internet fraud is on the rise, as is online shopping. It’s a perfect storm and I imagine these cases will become more common.
‘We should be able to rely on our banks to support us and retailers to investigate. Unfortunately, companies such as Amazon are so big, they don’t need to provide decent customer service.
‘The question is, do we want commercial relationships with firms that treat us like this?’
Reporting your case to Action Fraud, the cyber crime reporting service, and getting a reference number could be a way of forcing the bank to treat your complaint more seriously.
Amazon declined to comment on any specific details of the Lavers’s case, but the couple say they have been told that they will be getting a refund.
Lloyds has separately issued the couple a full refund.
A spokesman for Amazon warned customers to be wary of emails appearing to come from Amazon that are designed to steal personal details.
This could result in fraudsters being able to access accounts and place orders.
Action Fraud said it was unclear what had happened in this case, but added that typically in these types of scams, fraudsters intercept the goods before they reach the intended address.
A Lloyds Bank spokesman says: ‘We are extremely sorry or the inconvenience Mr Lavers has experienced.
‘As a result of our review, we have refunded the full amount of the order to Mr Lavers.’