20 JANUARY 1961, Page 29

Consuming Interest

Ever Been Had?

By LESLIE ADRIAN I've been had. And so have at least sixty others by someone who got away with a lot of money over Christ- mas.

Early in December was offered a second- hand Ford • by a good friend who was returning to the United States and was about to buy a new car to take with him. I tried to sell my Hillman at a number of garages 411 01 which made what to me seemed ludicrous 0 hrs. I then put a small ad. in a London even- 148 paper and had about six inquiries. Only one taller offered the price I had asked. He was a dealer and said he had a customer who wanted xactly the car I described. We arranged that he should borrow the car for twenty-four hours so that his customer could test it. The customer %l'as satisfied, I heard, and my car was returned.

The dealer then told me that the customer had DUI down a deposit for my car, terms were being arranged and the customer was being 'investi- gated' by the hire-purchase firm. There would be a delay of a week or so before I could be Paid. In the meantime, the customer would like

to be sure that the car was not being used. Could the dealer have the car on a sale-or-return basis so that it could be kept in his Kingston-on- Thames garage? I agreed to this, a driver came to collect the car and I got a receipt for it. All this was conducted in what appeared to be a properly professional way, by telephone with the dealer, the sales manager or the telephone operator or by post, the dealer using what looked like perfectly normal letter-heads, visit- ing card and so on.

About a week later the customer was 'cleared' by the hire-purchase firm and 1 handed over the log book in exchange for a cheque for the amount for which I had asked.

The cheque bounced on Christmas Day. it arrived back from my bank with the Christmas cards marked 'refer to drawer.' 1 couldn't do anything about it until three days later when the Christmas holidays were over. I then tele- phoned the dealer half a dozen times and got no reply. In the first post there was a letter from Kingston-on-Thames marked 'return to sender.' It was my letter thanking the dealer for his cheque (and wishing the so-and-so a Happy Christmas) and across the envelope it said 'Pre- mises unoccupied.'

The AA's Legal Department and Scotland Yard knew all about the case. I understand that I am one of over sixty people who got the same Christmas present from the dealer and everyone except the sixty of us seems full of admiration for the really brilliant job he has done. He has disappeared with thousands of pounds.

Even if my car is found—it may have new number plates and a respray by now—I am told there is very little chance that I will have any legal right to it. Meanwhile my cheque in pay- ment for the Ford 1 wanted has bounced. 1 was backing it with what I got for the Hillman.

Please—don't anyone write and tell me what I should have done. I know now: never part with a car (or anything else of size) until a cheque is actually cleared. And there was I always thinking those car dealers in Warren Street were not to be trusted because they always have so much ready cash in their pockets.