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Cottage Delight warns other businesses to be vigilant after falling victim to a scam leaving them £3.4k out of pocket

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: January 15, 2014

By Abbey Buxton

Jason Moody, managing director of food firm Cottage Delight.

Jason Moody, managing director of food firm Cottage Delight.

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A FOOD business in the Staffordshire Moorlands is warning other firms to be vigilant after it was conned out of more than £3,000 of stock.

Cottage Delight in Leekbrook fell victim to the scam after receiving a phone call from a man calling himself Tom, on December 16.

He said he wanted to place an order for one of the garden centres the company deals with, called Houghton Hall, in Carlisle, which is part of a wider group.

Managing Director Jason Moody said: "In order to find the account we ask for the account number or postcode.

"Tom gave the postcode without hesitation, the order was input for £3,400 and he gave an order number.

"His knowledge of our products was excellent; he described both the packaging and the contents of gift packs.

"He talked about the garden centre having new shelving that needed to be filled, and asked about delivery times and about the possibility of collecting the order, as he said he had a van in Uttoxeter collecting poinsettias for the garden centre.

"We arranged for the order to be collected on Tuesday 17.

"A van arrived on the Tuesday and the order was collected."

Tom then called again to place another order.

Mr Moody said: "He was asking about discounts and how quickly we could get the order ready for collection.

"It isn't normal for this customer to ask about these things, and as they are part of a group further discounts would not be applicable. So, as he was ordering items which were on the clearance list, the team manager was called to confer.

"The team manager didn't know a Tom, so we contacted the main buyer for the group who revealed that no Tom existed and further enquiries with Houghton Hall confirmed the same.

"Tom then called back with an order for £2,100 and an order number, and he wanted to collect the following day.

"He was very relaxed talking about his children's nativity play.

"On this occasion he gave an email contact address.

"This further confirmed our suspicions that the order was not from the genuine customer, whose email addresses belongs to a group, so we then contacted the police.

"The collection of the second order was arranged for December 19.

"The police arranged for plain clothes officers to be on site and the driver and his passenger were apprehended once they had shown intent to take the goods.

"Tom continued to call for two days after asking whether the order had been collected and at one point was going to send someone else in to collect."

Mr Moody added: "Ultimately lessons have been learned for us.

"In future if a customer places an order and asks to collect it, we will always double check with the regular customer contact for that order and the manager to ensure it is genuine.

"We would warn any businesses that if something similar happens to them and a customer is asking for anything different than they'd normally do, always double check, because you can't take for granted that it might not be genuine."

Staffordshire Police confirmed it was contacted on December 18 by staff at Cottage Delight.

She added: "Officers arranged to be present the next day when goods were to be collected. Two men in their 40s from the St Helens area were arrested on suspicion of fraud and obtaining services by deception. They were bailed, pending further inquiries, to a date next month.

"Anyone with any information is asked to ring 101 quoting incident 326 of 18 December."

No-one from Houghton Hall was available for comment as the Post & Times went to press.

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