You pay for a product, and wait eagerly by the letterbox. Day after day after day. Where is it? It’s no use strumming your fingers and glancing at the clock — your item never turns up.
This could be an innocent problem. It could’ve got lost in the post. Or it might be a scam. So what can you do about it?
What Is the “Goods Not Received” Scam?
It’s no surprise that, according to the U.K. bank NatWest, this was the most common scam of 2016, and that promises to continue in the coming years.
Delivery guy goals pic.twitter.com/k4J1YuVQka
— Pugs ? (@PugsReacts) April 21, 2017
You pay for an item, but it doesn’t arrive. The seller maintains that they’ve sent it. It’s that simple.
It’s especially infuriating if it’s a product you’ve been searching for over a long period of time, or if you’ve paid a substantial amount for it. Sellers will likely state that it’s on its way, so you end up waiting around, but it never turns up. In some cases, cybercriminals will have delayed you so much with their assurances that you’ll be out of time for the website’s terms about raising issues within a set number of days.
This is why you can’t always trust auction sites. The site itself might be a credible name, but it’s really down to the selling community to prove trustworthy. Nonetheless, you can’t tar them all with the same brush — it’s down to you to shop carefully and take the necessary precautions.
Obviously, variations of this persist. Notably, some fraudsters will ask for payment in advance, and once you do, they don’t bother sending the goods — if they even had them in the first place! Always refuse, regardless of how persuasive the seller is being. It’s simply not worth it.
Let’s not forget that this works both ways: another scam turns the tables on sellers, with a buyer claiming a product you’ve shipped hasn’t arrived. It’s fraud in which you’re painted as the scammer, which is particularly infuriating.
How Can You Protect Yourself From This Scam?
As a buyer: Auction sites and third-party marketplaces naturally know these cases go on, so do what they can to prevent it happening (not that it’s always successful). That’s one of the reasons you shouldn’t take negotiations to a different platform. Okay, so eBay, for example, takes some of the profits off sellers, but with that comes a degree of security.
Similarly, you should pay for items through a service that guarantees your money is safe. If you can prove an item hasn’t turned up, PayPal should give you your money back. And because the window for issues is open for 180 days (with some exceptions), you’re less likely to be delayed by a scammer’s insistence.
Credit cards generally offer the same level of money-back guarantee, though complaints typically need to be raised quicker than on PayPal. Check terms and conditions to properly ascertain what your rights are if you don’t receive your goods.
And of course, never pay by bank transfer. You’ve got very little recourse should anything prove amiss, whether that’s the items not arriving or if they turn up damaged.
As a seller: You’ve got a lot to think about, but one thing is essential: get proof of postage. That simply means asking for a receipt when using your local postal or delivery service. If you book such deliveries online, print off confirmations, and keep subsequent emails.
Get your item signed for too. At least this way, it’s an admission by the buyer that they’ve received it, or a neighbor took it in. Many big name deliverers let sellers check the signature, so you can then relay this information to the buyer if they affirm that they never got it.
What Can You Do After an Item Goes Missing?
This largely depends on your region, but no matter where you are, you still have rights.
In America, the Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule and the Fair Credit Billing Act mean you don’t have to pay for anything you’ve not received. Your first port of call should always be the retailer. If you find no luck there, turn to the host site — e.g. eBay, Amazon, etc. — and know that, as long as you’ve paid using a secure method, you can rely on those services to give you a refund.
This is why eBay encourages the use of PayPal. As well as offering encryption that means your details are safe (notably the HTTPS URL), using PayPal through the auction site (or, indeed, many sites!) will also give you a money-back guarantee.
If you used a credit card, you need to contact your provider at their “billing inquiries” address within 60 days of you receiving the bill. Photocopy any details that support your claim. Should things get messier, consult the Federal Trade Commission.
In the U.K., you’re legally obliged to receive either a replacement or a refund. Don’t go in all guns blazing, however. Speak to the seller reasonably, and (if it’s a genuine issue) they should contact the delivery service to find out exactly what’s happened. Your contract is with the retailer, so the onus is on them to sort the problem out.
Amazon delivery failed. Can't wait to see packaging around a micro-sd card that wouldn't fit in outdoor letterbox…
— Stoopid IT Guy (@iowct) April 21, 2017
Your goods should turn up within 30 days, or within a date agreed upon between you and the seller.
Beyond this, you need to enquire with your credit or debit card provider — ask about “chargeback”, which might allow the reversal of fees.
Really, it’s all about what you’ve done to protect yourself when ordering.
What If It’s Not a Scam?
Your rights still stand. Sure, you can feel sorry for the seller, in which case, talk to them, and, if you’re using a site that accepts feedback, skip that section, or at least don’t leave negative comments. But that’s only if you know it’s a misunderstanding. Sellers will likely have proof of postage they can show you in such genuine instances. You’re both left in the same boat if so.
It’s a horrible situation to be in, but being reasonable and rational is the key.
Have you ever been in this situation? What did you do? And how do you protect your rights in such cases?
Image Credits: JrCasas/Shutterstock
Explore more about: Scams.