J.B. writes: Hershel Escrow rang me, offering a hugely inflated price for my Park First car parking spaces, saying it had a buyer from the Far East.
The caller sounded very convincing but, to me, this was an obvious scam. What concerns me is that the company had somehow acquired all my details.
You paid £50,000 to Park First for two spaces in a car park near Gatwick as an investment.
But according to Dylan Holloway of Dubai-based Hershel Escrow, a buyer is desperate to snap these up for £83,500. The snag? You have to fork out £7,600 up front ‘to ensure protection for all parties involved’.
Rubbish. Since when did a seller who is approached out of the blue by a would-be buyer have to put up cash as a sign of good faith? It is the seller who should be doing this, by sending a deposit to your solicitor.
Of course, you are right. This is a scam. Hershel Escrow’s website pledges that your £7,600 will be held in trust until the sale is completed, in a bank account that is insured by the Dubai Financial Services Authority.
All this is news to the Dubai regulator. It says that despite its address and phone number, Hershel Escrow is not even in Dubai. And it adds: ‘The Dubai FSA does not ‘insure’ any person, including any bank.’
The Dubai watchdog ‘strongly recommends that people do not reply to any communication concerning the false claims, and under no circumstances should they give any money to any party involved’.
This raises the question of where your £7,600 would be deposited. I can tell you. It would go to Santander, to be credited to account number 85 30 59 79 at sort code 09-01-27.
The account belongs to an ordinary individual in the London area who may believe he is earning commission for helping a legitimate business, but is in fact helping to launder the proceeds of crime.
I know this because one reader did not spot the scam and sent £8,200. Hershel then asked for a further £27,000, which he refused to pay.
Santander has not been able to recover the £8,200, which suggests it was transferred offshore as soon as it was deposited.
The bank told me: ‘We would urge anybody to check that any request to transfer money is coming from a genuine business or service – particularly if they are asked for up-front payments. If there is any doubt, do not make the transfer.’
Park First strongly denies that it released names of its investors. There were lots of dubious people involved in outside sales companies who acted as agents, so your name could have come from one of them.
But Hershel is not the only firm involved in this fraud. Park First investors have also been contacted by Everton Rose.
This company also claims to be in Dubai. And its offer letter, from a Norman Reid, is uncannily similar to the one issued by Hershel Escrow, while the two companies’ websites could almost have come from the same source.
Neither of the two scam firms replied to invitations to comment about any of this, which is a shame, since after teetering on the brink for many months, Park First has finally gone over the edge into administration.
Investors would be glad to recover what they can, let alone make a profit, but falling for the dodgy deals supposedly from Dubai would be throwing good money after bad.