‘Can’t believe I fell for this’: Innisfil man duped by campervan scam, out $9K

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An Innisfil, Ont., man thought he and his wife had bought a campervan after he responded to an online advertisement, but he’s since discovered that they’re out $9,000.

In August, Frank Piller, 64, and his wife thought they’d rekindle their interest in camping, so they started searching for campervans online.

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That was when Piller saw an ad for a 1995 Winnebago Rialta, which appeared to be exactly what he and his wife wanted.

“I answered that ad, and I didn’t get an answer back close to a week, a week-and-a-half (later),” he told Global News.

“The deal on this thing was that the person who owned it was trying to dispose of it after her father passed. It was actually her father’s, and she was a nurse, and she was actually working in B.C. but was from the Ottawa area.”

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Piller said he was told that the campervan was being stored and handled by a third-party company called LanerHaines Corporation. He said he was told he needed to pay $9,000 upfront and that the campervan would be shipped to him and his wife with a 10-day test period and a money-back guarantee if they didn’t want it after that period.

“I knew stuff like that existed — there’s other companies advertising the same thing, so I really didn’t think too much of it,” he said.

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After he received the invoice from LanerHaines, Piller said he checked the company out on the internet and he thought it looked legitimate. (The website appears to no longer be accessible).

On the website and the invoice, Piller said it indicated that patrons could pay by credit card, e-transfer or money wire.

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Piller tried to pay via credit card, but it wouldn’t accept the company’s credentials. The e-transfer also didn’t work.

“I emailed them back, saying, ‘Look, I can’t seem to pay you’ — my bank doesn’t recognize you guys,'” he said. “They emailed me back, saying, ‘It’s probably because we just relocated our corporate finance division to England, so perhaps you can do it at the bank through the wire.'”

Piller went to the bank and sent the wire to LanerHaines.

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“Nothing happened for four days, so I reached out to them, and to the owner’s email, that address was gone,” he said.

“LanerHaines never did answer anything, so I don’t know what the story is on that, but long story short, I’m out $9,000”

According to the Better Business Bureau, online purchase scams rose to 38.3 per cent in 2020 from 24.3 per cent in 2019. The organization said the COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers and businesses to social distance, increasing buying and selling online.

“It was a sucker punch to the gut basically,” Piller said. “It’s not a ton of money in the grand scheme of things, but it came out of my credit line, and it basically eliminated our savings account.”

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The 64-year-old said he thought he had done his due diligence by researching LanerHaines online.

“In retrospect and thinking back, all the alarm bells were there,” he said. “I guess I just refused to see them.”

Piller said he notified his bank’s fraud division, though he hasn’t heard anything back. He also notified the Better Business Bureau and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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