A COUPLE have been left £1,200 out of pocket and with a pile of rubble in the garden after a trader they found on Facebook disappeared without a trace.

Rolando Gonzalvo and his wife found the gardener through a now-deleted Facebook Marketplace advert from ‘Sean Gardner’.

He quoted the pair £2,900 – a price which they thought was reasonable for the decking, painting and re-fencing work they wanted doing.

On his return to start the work, he ripped out the patio, and explained that he would need just shy of half of the cash to cover the cost of materials.

Oxford Mail:

He took a payment of £1,200 and ‘went to the shop’.

He later called the couple to say that he could not come back, because the materials were unavailable.

Mr Gonzalvo said: “By that time he had already made a big mess in our garden.”

The Mini plant employee, who moved to Headington with his wife form the Philippines roughly 10 years ago, added: “I am very, very stressed.

“I work nights, but even sometimes when I’m trying to go to sleep, I can’t.

“We work so hard, and this guy came and took it away – it’s not fair.”

The situation was reported to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, which has passed on the incident to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).

The teams at the NFIB service look at all the information and make a decision about what to do with the crimes next: they can decide to investigate it further, find a prevention process, or decide that there is insufficient evidence.

Mr Gonzalvo said he spent the past two weeks trying calling the man, but the number goes straight to voicemail.

And he added the man's Facebook profile has disappeared.

He said: “I don’t know why people are like this.

“I just want to warn people, he’s good at convincing people.

“If this has happened to anybody else, I just want them to report it.

“At least for us, we’re already the fools, he is a crook and he fooled us – now what can we do?”

Oxford Mail:

Fraud is thought to make up around 65 of reported crime and the number of people in the county who are contacting Citizen Advice Oxford about scams has shot up by a third since 2017.

In August, Thames Valley Police’s head of economic crime told the Oxford Mail: “In the past, fraud has often been looked at as a victimless crime, but fraud that preys on the vulnerable can be unpleasant and financially catastrophic for victims.”

Facebook was asked to comment on how its marketplace works, and how it prevents users being scammed from adverts, but did not respond.