Police appeal to catch national fraudster

ESSEX Police have passed on a warning to people buying online to beware a fraudster who has tricked several customers out of their money by offering expensive items.

Detectives in West Midlands are appealing for help to find 53-year-old Stephen Reynolds who is wanted in connection with a number of online fraud offences.

Officers are looking into 17 incidents where victims have been conned into handing over money for items bought online, which they then never receive.

The victims identified have lost several thousands of pounds and police believe there may be many other victims who have not come forward.

Reynolds is believed to be behind the scam, which is currently claiming a new victim every week.

Buyers are duped on sites such as eBay and Gumtree into buying valuable items at a very cheap price.

When they make contact with the seller via email, he exchanges numbers with them and talks them through the item, which can range between anything from second hand juke boxes and bicycles to caravans and luxury cars.

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He then asks for half, or sometimes all of the money, to be transferred into his personal bank account, as he does not have a PayPal account.

The seller then confirms with the customer that he has received the money and that he will send out the goods, however he then ceases all communication with the customer.

He uses an address in Acocks Green, Birmingham – a void property – but he also uses others across the country. They either relate to hotels or derelict land.

Stephen Reynolds – who also goes by the name of Stephen Scott – is known to frequent Newtown in Wales, Bristol, Birmingham, Devon and Cornwall.

The latest victims are from Glasgow, Plymouth and Rugby, and future victims could be from anywhere in the UK.

Detective Constable Arita Chonkria, from West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “We have already seen many victims of this scam and we need to stop it from happening to anyone else.

“I would urge anyone who knows where Stephen Reynolds may be to get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can speak to him about these offences.”

Anyone with any information should call the Economic Crime Unit on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.