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Well-known Wiltshire clock dealer Michael Oxley was recently contacted over the telephone by a man who agreed to buy four clocks at a total cost of £72,500.

Refusing an offer to install two longcases at his home, the man (he gave his name as Bill Write) said he would arrange a bank transfer and would collect the clocks in person from P.A. Oxley’s in Cherhill. The money failed to appear when promised but it was in the account several days later, although a pertinent call to the bank revealed that the payment had been made not by transfer but by cheque and accordingly the funds were yet to clear.

The conman, contacted again on a mobile phone, said his accountant had made a mistake and offered to bring in a banker’s draft and pick up the goods immediately. However, Mr Oxley was already suspicious and his instincts were confirmed when the bank later wrote to say the cheque had been stolen.

Although in this case no goods changed hands, Mr Oxley and his local police force believe that the scam was hoping to target those who use the Internet, rather than one-to-one contact with their bank, for confirmation of payment. The conman was hoping that the victim, having seen confirmation of funds on the computer screen, would assume a transfer had been made – not a cheque paid in – and release the goods before contacting the bank to learn the precise method of payment. Only later would they learn that payment was made not by account-to-account transfer but by stolen cheque.