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They fell victim to a scam involving cloned credit cards, which cost them the payment for these (pictured right) and another 18th century Meissen figure.

The Gloucestershire dealer concerned was contacted three weeks ago by a man who gave his name as Paul Jenkinson, saying he was a BBC scriptwriter (his name appears on their website as the author of the recent Michelangelo series). He said he wanted to buy the figures as a gift for his girlfriend whose mother had collected early Meissen. Several convincing calls followed before the ‘buyer’ chose the three figures and asked for payment to be made on two Royal Bank of Scotland cards.

Each card was to be swiped twice for £3000, totalling £12,000. The dealer – experienced at credit card transactions but unfamiliar with the small print issued by card companies – did as requested. The streamline machine authorised the transactions and two days later the money was in the dealer’s account.

Following an attempt to deliver the goods to a house in London, ‘Mr Jenkinson’ contacted the dealer to say he was running late and could the figures be delivered to the Sadlers Wells hotel where they were signed for by a doorman.

It was only later that the dealer learned from VISA that the numbers on the cards had not been registered to the name and address given by the fraudster and that the transactions had likely been completed using cloned (rather than stolen cards).

The dealer had also erred by accepting payment through multiple transactions – particularly the splitting of payments over two cards – which is a technique used by fraudsters to avoid immediate detection. A large transaction might breach the credit limit of a card and would be flagged up at the credit card authorisation centre.

Because they unknowingly breached the rules, the dealer is now liable for the loss.