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Laptop bag left as security turns out to contain books

Police in Stevenage are appealing for information about the theft of a Trek time trial bike taken by a thief who masqueraded as a potential buyer.

The owner had advertised the bike on a couple of second-hand sites, so when a man turned up at his house on February 8 claiming to be interested in buying it, it all seemed on the level.

In his ads, the owner said he had spent £6,200 on the 2011 Trek Project One Speed Concept bike and only raced it “a couple of times.” He said he was selling it because “I have a new addition to the family and I can't see myself doing any triathlons anytime soon.”

The offender asked to test the bike and gave the victim a laptop bag, which the victim assumed had a laptop inside. The offender then cycled off down Letchmore Road in the direction of Walkern Road. He didn’t return and after a short while the victim checked the bag, which he found contained books.

The offender is described as a man of ‘Mediterranean’ appearance, in his late 20s to early 30s who was around 6ft 1/2in tall with short dark hair and stubble. He was wearing a grey beanie hat, rectangular narrow glasses, a long grey tweed over coat and brown corduroy trousers.

Investigating officer PC David Vince, said: “I would appeal to anyone who believes they have seen this bike for sale or who has been offered it for sale to contact me with information.

“I would also appeal to people in the local area to call in if they saw a man on this bike around the time of the incident. It is believed the offender may have been in the company of another person in a van and that the bike may have been loaded into a van. If you saw this or anything suspicious please call.

“Finally, if you have had a bike for sale and been approached by a man matching this description or in similar circumstances, please ring get in touch with the information.”

Anyone with information should contact PC Vince via the Herts police non-emergency number 101 quoting crime reference number E1/14/944. Alternatively call Crimestoppers, the independent charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Edit: Bedfordshire police investigating similar crime

Thanks to Dave Van MusicMaster on Facebook for drawing our attention to a very similar crime in Bedforshire last month.

A man from Marston Moretaine had advertised a carbon fibre Cube bike for sale on Gumtree site and was contacted by a prospective buyer who made an appointment to view the bike on Wednesday, January 8, according to the police report.

When the buyer turned up on Wednesday evening at about 8.20pm, he was very knowledgeable about racing bikes and seemed credible and trustworthy. However, he asked to test the bike out in the cul de sac where the seller lives and then when the seller’s back was turned to shut his van door, the thief simply hopped on the bike and rode off at speed.

In this case, the thief also left a laptop bag as 'security'. That bag also turned out to just contain books, and had been recently bought from an Oxfam shop.

Safe selling

When you want to sell a bike, it’s easy to be too trusting. Even bike shops sometimes fall prey to convincing conmen who leave dodgy ‘security’ while they go for test rides.

Here are our tips for safe selling:

  • Don’t put your address in the ad or tell it to a possible buyer. Letting someone know where you live, and therefore where there’s an expensive bike, could mean a 2am visit from a man with a crowbar and bolt croppers.
  • Ask lots of relevant details, like how tall they are. Someone claiming to be 6ft but interested in a 51cm women-specific bike for himself is unlikely to be genuine.
  • Get their full name and phone number. If they’re hesitant about giving that information, that’s another reason to be wary.
  • Arrange to meet possible buyers on public, neutral ground. Partly for the same reasons as the first point, and also so that the situation is too public for them to mug you for the bike.
  • If they want a test ride get solid security. There have been instances of thieves leaving bike shops with car keys that have turned out to be bogus. Ask for photo ID such as a driving licence or passport, or go for a ride with your potential buyer. Or get the asking price of the bike in cash.

What have we missed? Tell us in the comments below.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

23 comments

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nappe [69 posts] 3 years ago
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Last time I bought a bike from someone in that situation, I left my 8 year old son as a deposit!

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StoopidUserName [301 posts] 3 years ago
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if they want a test ride they can leave the full amount...after you've checked they're not fake notes.

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jollygoodvelo [1625 posts] 3 years ago
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Arrange to meet possible buyers on public, neutral ground. Partly for the same reasons as the first point, and also so that the situation is too public for them to mug you for the bike.

Not sure about this one. I'd never buy a car from someone in a carpark or on a random street. I wouldn't expect anyone to buy one from me in that situation.

And to be honest, if someone's planning on nicking the bike, I live near London so would assume that the would-be thief is tooled up...

The answer of course is N+1 and never N-1.

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Simon_MacMichael [2492 posts] 3 years ago
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nappe wrote:

Last time I bought a bike from someone in that situation, I left my 8 year old son as a deposit!

It certainly wasn't unusual in the medieval world for nobles to put a child in their liege lord's custody as a pledge of loyalty and good faith, for example after taking part in a failed rebellion - although "hostage" is the commonly used word in that context  3

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dafyddp [429 posts] 3 years ago
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in this situation, the option might have been to offer to cycle along with them (assuming N+1, you'll probably have a spare bike). Obviously there's still the risk of them out-riding you, but that's a big risk to take for your average scrote, too.

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oozaveared [934 posts] 3 years ago
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I feel sorry for the guy. If I was selling a £6200 car I wouldn't just hand the keys to someone and let them test drive it, I'd make sure they were insured to drive it for a start and then go with them.

I'm not quite how you do this with a bike. You could ride with them on another bike or get a moped. A car wouldn't work really if they really wanted to lose you.

A laptop though even if there was one would be a pretty small deposit against a £6200 bike.

Luckily I don't have a £6200 bike for sale.

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RedfishUK [150 posts] 3 years ago
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Last time I bought a bike from someone in that situation, I left my 8 year old son as a deposit!

Have you been back for him yet  3

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chokofingrz [407 posts] 3 years ago
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I like that idea, the thief trying to get away on your £1k carbon bike but he can't drop you on your rusty mountain bike! It would be even better if you lived somewhere like, I don't know, the bottom of Alpe d'Huez!

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oozaveared [934 posts] 3 years ago
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Gizmo_ wrote:

Arrange to meet possible buyers on public, neutral ground. Partly for the same reasons as the first point, and also so that the situation is too public for them to mug you for the bike.

Not sure about this one. I'd never buy a car from someone in a carpark or on a random street. I wouldn't expect anyone to buy one from me in that situation.

And to be honest, if someone's planning on nicking the bike, I live near London so would assume that the would-be thief is tooled up...

The answer of course is N+1 and never N-1.

No definitely not in a public place. The advise if you are buying say a car is to make sure you are buying it from the person at the address where it is registered if you can. ie if vehicle is registred at that address and the person selling it lives at that address there's less chance it is nicked and is there's to sell.

More difficult if you are the seller and a buyer turns up. But neutral ground can't ever be a good idea.

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AyBee [85 posts] 3 years ago
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Why would you take a laptop as security against a £4k bike? There aren't many laptops that are worth £4k and I'd certainly be checking before letting someone else ride off on my bike...

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Leviathan [2600 posts] 3 years ago
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Ah, those Mediterraneans, plaguing these shores for over 2000 years.

Seriously hope he gets it back, pedigree bikes should really be chipped.

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CanAmSteve [256 posts] 3 years ago
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There are bogus sellers as well as buyers. For £6K, I think I would take precautions both ways, and I doubt I would try to either buy or sell a bike privately at that price - just too iffy (unless a known seller). A bike is even riskier than a car - at least there is ownership paperwork for a motor vehicle.

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gareth2510 [167 posts] 3 years ago
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The entire story doesnt add up for me. A 6K bike and he lets it roll off down the road for a test ride with a total stranger and is left clutching a bag he hasnt even looked in to check 'said computer' was in there... 6K bike v a laptop as security??

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antonio [1162 posts] 3 years ago
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Wonderful description of the thief, especially the, approx 6'and a half inch.

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caaad10 [188 posts] 3 years ago
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TAKE A PHOTO

This is extremely easy to stop happening if you get a picture of anyone about to ride off on your bike (or anyone buying/ selling a car, motorbike etc.) - the would be thief is very unlikely to go ahead with the theft if you have a full face picture to show the world, I've been doing this as a matter of course for years, even if everything appear to be completely in order.

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Chuck [588 posts] 3 years ago
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gareth2510 wrote:

The entire story doesnt add up for me. A 6K bike and he lets it roll off down the road for a test ride with a total stranger and is left clutching a bag he hasnt even looked in to check 'said computer' was in there... 6K bike v a laptop as security??

What's your theory for the 'real' story then?

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hood [118 posts] 3 years ago
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insurance scam? maybe the "thief" was his mate? double whammy!

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andycoventry [110 posts] 3 years ago
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Apparently there was a spate of similar thefts a couple of years ago in the southeast, 'Policeman' would go into a shop to test ride high end bikes, leave his warrant card with the shop and never come back....

Who would question a copper?....

Obviously he wasn't a real copper but makes you think... You never can be too carefull.

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dwbeever [54 posts] 3 years ago
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rules on sales/deposits....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqtjbWJPIgQ

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tacstokes [1 post] 3 years ago
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can you imagine that bloke in a long grey tweed over coat and brown corduroy trousers on that bike

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gareth2510 [167 posts] 3 years ago
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Chuck wrote:
gareth2510 wrote:

The entire story doesnt add up for me. A 6K bike and he lets it roll off down the road for a test ride with a total stranger and is left clutching a bag he hasnt even looked in to check 'said computer' was in there... 6K bike v a laptop as security??

What's your theory for the 'real' story then?

Just sounds incredibly far fetched to me. And if true naively stupid.

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crazy-legs [871 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

Just sounds incredibly far fetched to me. And if true naively stupid.

Not at all... Plenty of people are naively stupid when they believe those emails saying they're going to be the sole benefactor of a large sum of money in a Nigerian account and if they could please send £1000 to "aid the transaction"...

I used to work in a bike shop and we had some fairly elaborate scams tried on. Some worked, some didn't. Classic one involved a customer building a rapport with a young/new salesperson, trying out a couple of bikes, bringing them back, allowing themselves to be talked up a price bracket or two, repeat until they were on a £3000 bike and off they'd go.

Obviously we put in measures to stop all this. Bikes chained at all times on the shop floor, picture taken off all test ride customers, card verification checks etc.

But on a private sale, you don't have that backup and you always want to believe the best in your fellow cyclists - if this guy is talking the talk, being chatty etc, you'd be surprised how uncomfy and stupid most people would feel saying "hang on a sec, give me the cash and also let me take your photo before you touch the bike".

Same at a Sportive or race - you leave your bike unattended while you sign on and someone dressed in all the cycling gear casually wanders up, picks your bike up and rides off. No-one bats an eyelid. Thieves are getting smarter and moving with the times, it's not just dodgy hoodie wearing scrotes with bolt cutters any more.

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Chuck [588 posts] 3 years ago
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hood wrote:

insurance scam? maybe the "thief" was his mate? double whammy!

I dunno -would insurance pay out in those circumstances anyway?