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JGG with a major customer issue


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Hi everyone, I'm wondering if you could please assist me with this issue.

 

Basically I run a small computer repair business in my area. I have a customer who I think is attempting to pull a fast one over a insurance claim.

 

He apparently had a flood last year, got a friend to sort out his electrics, and alarm issues, and mentioned he had 'all this computer gear which is flooded, do you know any computer engineers?'. My friend mentioned me, and this guy contacted me, and told me his issues.

 

He had around 5 pc's, and other assorted hardware, which he wanted writing off, and being issued with a engineers report, for insurance purposes. He brought round all the pc's and "OLD" hardware, for testing.

 

Each pc I tested was fully working, so returned them to him in the same state as they came in. (I made a note of all serial numbers, and hardware inside, and still have it in my database).

 

The "OLD" hardware, I could not test, as I did not have the associated hardware to test each, ie socket 7 boards, needing a cpu, memory, pcmcia modem cards etc..

 

Now my 'customer' told me, that all this hardware was worth a fortune to him, as the prices were astronimcal. (which they were many years ago).

 

There was also other items of hardware, including a pixeltec? sp camera, and hardware, which I have no knowledge of, dont know how to test the items, and told him so.

 

He said, oh its ok, they were all inside, and got flooded, just write them off, and I will pay you! Major alarm bells started ringing..

 

Fast forward 12 months, to last week, when he contacted me again, stating that hes only got another 4 weeks, before the insurance claim is closed, as nothing has been done about it.

 

He asks me, if I still have the other items of hardware, I told him no, that everything was disposed of approx 6 months ago. I tried umpteen times to contact you, via email, no reply. Mobile (changed no), landline went dead, and could not hold the items any longer, as they were all taking up space in the workshop. He didnt like this, but had no choice in the matter.

 

He then said, do you have the pixeltec camera etc, as I know someone who will give me £1500 for it all, the insurance will be paying me £3000, and I will give you £500 from it, just for that alone!. This 'someone' would integrate it into their systems. Again I told him no, I dont have anything, and what your saying is tantamount to insurance fraud, of which I'm, having no part of.

 

He then contacts me last week with some more items, which were 'flooded'. Can you send me a copy of your letter headed paper, together with what you would put down on the insurance report, I will do all the legwork for you, email it back over to you, you sign it, post it back, and when im paid, ill give you something out of it!. Again major bells ringing..

 

I tell him, that I cannot, and will not do that, as I'm not going to get myself into this kind of situation. He agrees with this, and then sends me a spreadsheet of the items, which he wants writing off..

 

The total 'new' cost of these items, is in the region of £6000, as its all like for like.

 

This is where it gets interesting..

 

example, he has listed

Desktop HP 5750 s/n xxx Athlon 64bit x2, dual core, 4gb ram, 500gb drive, litescribe dvdrw, nvidia geforce 8400gs graphics card.

 

In place of this, he wants a HP RP5700, Intel Dual core E6400 2gb, 250gb drive. £979.95 Together with an extra 2Gb ram £64.61, a Radeon HD4650 Graphics card £77.02, HP Litescribe writer £34.08, and an extra HP 500Gb drive £74.03. Multiply this by 4, and its a huge cost..

 

I rang him earlier, asking what speed the cpu is inside the machines, and he tells me, oh i dont know, its on the hp website.. (as theres a list of approx 8 cpu's which could of been fitted), and comes back with a athlon 3.8ghz d/c. I tell him that there is no 8400gs listed as spec on that machine, and he tells me, oh it must be the big one at the end..

 

I mention that the costs of each additional piece of hardware, he wants including is far in excess of what any customer can purchase it for, and he tells me, that it has a HP memory stick inside it, and I want it to have another HP memory stick inside, the costs are what are on the website at the moment!

 

There are other assorted items, too, ieYamaha CRW-f1sx CDRW external SCSI., where he has put down a costing of £349.95 for!. These can be purchased for as little as £20-30 admitadly on ebay, but all this is causing me major issues.

 

I am thinking of writing this email off to him, and see what he says..

 

Hi xxx

 

I've had another look, and thoughts about the pc list etc.

 

The only way I could possibly do anything regarding these items, it to physically have them here, check the specs of each, ensure that every item is completely faulty, then could do a insurance report etc, together with comparative costings.

 

I can't simply do a insurance report, and write them all off without seeing each item in question.

 

The reason being, I do a lot of insurance work, for all the insurance companies, and should anything be amiss with your claim, then I do not want to be party of any allegations, or false claims.

 

If you would like to drop the machines, and assorted hardware off, then I will gladly go through them, and check everything prior to writing the report out for you. Early next week would be best for me, as at the current time, I simply do not have the time to devote to checking everything out this week.

 

Now does this sound a little 2 faced of me?, or should I simply tell him to go forth. This claim sounds like it's going to run into the £000's, and the majority of it looks false. Who'm could I contact to see if anything could be done?

 

Thanks for your time, and apologies for reading war and peace.

 

Take care for now

be safe

JGG :)

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I would send the email adding that you charge £20 per item for an insurance quote. After all it is your time he should be paying for.

 

Keep a copy of the information he sent you. I have a feeling he might come back on accussing you of theft of the camera. The conversation you originally had about disposing of the equipment as you could not get hold of him was it by email per chance?

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Wow, that's not an easy position to be in.

 

If you do assist him in anything fraudulent and it comes to light (which it has a strong chance of doing when the insurers start looking into valuations etc) then you leave yourself in a very dodgy position, I can see from your original post that you already know this (if that sounds patronising I apologise, it wasn't meant to).

 

I would say you have 3 serious options

 

1) Tell him to go forth, what he asking you to do is commit fraud and no 'backhander' is worth the risk to you or your reputation.

 

2) If you know the Insurer concerned (ie his insurer), I would ring them and speak to the claims manager and advise him of everything you know. If I had a supplier do that I'd be damn sure that I'd use them in future with other claims

 

3) Play it straight down the line with the customer, along the lines of your letter.

 

Good luck with whatever you decide to do

 

Mossy

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Thanks for all the advice Wino, and Mossy.

 

I will add to the email, that I will charge £20 per item, for the insurance quote. Re the conversation about the disposal, im afraid that was all done on the phone, as at the time, I did not have his email address to tell him the same.

 

Mossy, thanks again for your input. I appreciate you work(ed) in the insurance industry, and I really do value what your saying.

 

There is no chance, that I will be doing what he is asking me too. I wish I had his insurance details.. Thinking aside, including in the email, I could change it by also asking for his insurance company, so when I write the reports, I need their details etc.. Then contact the claims manager direct, and have a word with them.

 

1), I've been seriously thinking of telling him to go forth, I have worked long and hard to get where I am now, and am not willing to risk anything. My reputation is worth far more, then what he is asking me to do.

 

2), I will look into that possibility, thanks :)

 

3), I will try and get his insurance details off him, via email first, as defintive proof, could then write the insurance letter, and play it by ear.

 

Another thoughts just come to me, last week, in the conversation we had, I mentioned, that if the pc's were to be disposed of, then personally I would data wipe all details off the hard drive.

 

He asked me how much that would be, and I quoted him at £25 per machine, as I use 3-5 passes, it takes time etc.. to be told '£25 sounds a bit too much money for that, can you make it £20 each, and add it to the quote, also how much does it cost to dispose of an item?', I told him its £5 per item, ie tower, monitor, keyboard mouse etc. 'Oh cool, add that to the list too'.

 

edit Sorry, I did have his email address, just checked it. The email addy he's using now, is a different one to the one originally given to me.

Edited by jo1lygrngiant
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Hi guys, just a small update.

 

I contacted my 'customer' yesterday, asking for his insurance company name etc, so that I could 'finalise my report'. He came back to me earlier this morning, with the company name.

 

I have contacted a claims manager at the insurance co. given them all the information I have. Whilst I was on the phone, they have found the claim, unfortunately, the guy I was speaking too, isnt the one handling the actual claim, but he knows the one who is. He is going to speak with her directly, and get this claim REALLY looked into. I have left them with all my contact details, as he mentioned, that its highly likely that a insurance investigator will need to contact me, for a statement, which im more than prepared to give. I'm also going to forward all emails, I have between me and my customer, to the guy i've been speaking to; and also going to send a email to my customer, telling him to go forth.

 

thanks again for all the help.

 

be safe

 

jgg :)

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I think that this fourm is an excellent place for getting good advice and information and I am only fairly new to this site but I feel the need to give the following advice where potential criminal activity is concerned. Apologies if it is already on the site somewhere.

 

Users need to be careful what they write in these forums. The OP has given quite specific details about an alleged fraud, and although no names have been mentioned, the customer concerned may well be able to identify himself from this information. The OP has now also confirmed that he has reported this or rather his concerns to a regulated body.

 

As this is a public forum, it may be construed that due to the posting of such information, the OP may have committed a 'Tipping Off' offence under Section 342 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

 

It is unlikely that anything posted here will be classed as such (unless the customer IS tipped off by this), but remember that the person/firm/organisation you are posting about may well be reading the forum as well. As such, if you feel that a criminal act is being contemplated or been undertaken, try not to give any details that may help the alleged wrongdoer to identify themselves.

 

Conversely, the OP's customer may well be reading this and be doing something perfectly legit and as such, feel the need to issue proceedings against the OP for libel.

 

Be careful.....

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Thanks once again everyone. Sent the go forth email off to my customer, within 10 mins, he rang me, saying hes got the email, and how hes not asking me to do all the work, just top n tail it, and he would fill in all the blanks. Still told him, sorry, but I dont have the time to do anything right now, and put the phone down...

 

I'm waiting for him to realise, its too much of a coincidence between me asking for his ins co details, and 45 mins later, saying thanks but no thanks..

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Thanks for your concerns Endy. I appreciate what your saying. I can't say with a 100% certainty, that my customer does not read these forums.

 

Re the claim being legit, again I can say with a 100% certainty, that the items I had to test, 5 of the pc's were in a fully working capacity, of which the customer wanted me to write off. I can't and won't write off something which is fully working. Those 5 machines alone came close to £2000 in write off costs.

 

The latest batch of machines, are according to the manu specs, POS machines.

 

These are the ones in which he wants me to write off, without even seeing them - ergo, either he doesnt have them, and wants to add them to the claim, which at the last count was running at £6k (for the latest batch alone), and or I test them, and they are all working. Or by changing a piece of hardware, can get them working again, at a fraction of the cost involved.

 

There are also IP phones, and other assorted hardware, which also includes, a few laptops, more IP phones, and wireless headsets.. (I was told about the lappies, phones and headsets in the conversation this morning)

 

Judging by the comments he has mentioned to me, and the spreadsheet given to me, then as far as I can see, it is blatent insurance fraud. I'm not saying that every single piece of hardware or equipment is faulty, and damaged by the 'flood', but for there to be so much of it, and from what I have tested working somethign is amiss.

 

And I dont mean to make this sound patronising in my reply to you. Please accept my apologies, if you think it is patronising.

 

I have thought long and hard over this, and feel that I am making the right decision.

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No problems, I don't find it patronising at all, just thought I would warn people that posting details of alleged criminal activity might not be the best idea and if they are going to do it, to limit the amount of information given.

 

To the best of my knowledge I don't think anyone has been prosecuted for a breach of Section 342 of the Proceeds of Crime Act yet, but it does carry up to a five year prison sentence and/or large fine if you are convicted of said offence and there is always a first....

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Conversely, the OP's customer may well be reading this and be doing something perfectly legit and as such, feel the need to issue proceedings against the OP for libel.

 

Be careful.....

 

I'm not an expert on libel law but I would have thought that for any action to be success the plaintiff would have to be actually named, or at least identified in a way that it could not be anyone else.

 

Since neither the OP or the 'other person' is named I wouldn't have thought that even if the 'other person' did read these forums and recognised him/herself they could demonstrate that they had libelled.

 

I stand to be corrected though

 

Mossy

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I agree that the OP's customer would have little chance of success against the OP for libel, but that doesn't stop them from issuing proceedings in Court and for the OP to spend a large amount of time and possible money to defend the matter in Court.

 

P*ssed off litigants in person can be a real pain in the *ss if they know enough and if they get a solicitor to take it on a NWNF basis then everything will be pleaded well and cause a huge nightmare for the OP.

 

No matter how unlikely a claims chance of success is, there is always the litigation risk that some obscure law can be found by a good barrister to support the Claimants argument, or that you get a ludicrous decision from the lower courts that you then have to appeal etc.

 

Nevertheless, my original post was just one to try and warn people to think about posting too many details if they think a criminal act is being or has been committed. I certainly did not intend it to be a citicism of anyone.

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I for one havent taken it as a critism, in fact, I welcome your comments. It's the first time I have come across the section 342 act.

 

Something I will read up on, as and when I get the chance. At the moment, I have emailed my customer, to say, go forth, given all the details I have to the insurance company, and am now leaving it all up to them. If and when the investigator contacts me, I will give an update as to what's said etc.

 

Having another point of view in matters such as this, I find invaluable, and really do thank everyone concerned for comments, and suggestions.

 

Take care for now

be safe

JGG :)

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Good for you JGG you did not know if the 'customer' would of just supplied a quote in your name after all he did request your company letterhead. You need to protect yourself, your reputation and your business. By informing the Insurance Company I think you have done just that.:)

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Thanks wino. That's pretty much all he wanted. For me to provide the bones of the letter, he would fill everything in, with inflated costs (i can only presume), ask me to sign it, and hey presto... he makes a small fortune, with his inflated costs, and items which do work. I would get a couple of quid out of it, and know that everythings false.

 

All our insurance premiums would go up, and I would feel partly to blame because of it. That is something my concience would not allow me to do.

 

I'm all for anyone making a couple of quid, but this is blatent falsehoods, of which im having none of.

 

I have worked for years, getting my business up and running, gaining customers, and making sure my reputation is second to none, all for it to possibly come crashing down on top of me.. this guy will have to look elsewhere im afraid..

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi everyone, just a small update. I've just received a call off the insurance investigator regarding the claim from my 'customer'. They were waiting for the file off the loss adjusters. Now that they have received it, the investigator wants to meet with me, to discuss what I know etc. So a meeting is planned for sometime today.

 

I will post an update after the meeting.

 

Have a great day all.

be safe

JGG :)

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