JACKSONVILLE — Police say a Jacksonville man bilked hundreds of people out of possibly thousands of dollars through unfulfilled transactions on his sports memorabilia Web site.
Jacksonville police arrested Eual Brent Hallford, 40, on Monday on three charges of credit card abuse and two charges of debit card abuse. He was arraigned and posted a $25,000 bond.
Hallford owned an Internet business called Trading Card Collectibles. The company’s Web site, www.tradingcardcollectibles.com, has been disabled, but a note posted to the site on Nov. 1 stated that the company was “financially unable to stay in business.” The note expressed hope the site would re-open and gave an e-mail address for customers wishing to contact Hallford.
Hundreds have already contacted the Tyler Better Business Bureau, said Ann Harris, the BBB’s director of standards and practices.
“We’re getting calls on that company every day,” she said.
In the past year, the BBB received 750 inquiries into the company and 89 complaints against it. The issues were usually the same, Ms. Harris said.
Hallford allegedly required customers to pay for their merchandise before he ordered it from a wholesaler. Sometimes the memorabilia arrived, and sometimes it didn’t. But, instead of refunding customers when their orders didn’t come in, he gave them credit to use on his Web site, Ms. Harris said.
“The customers either didn’t want to use the credit, or they couldn’t get the items they tried to purchase using the credit,” she Harris said.
She added that this wasn’t the first time she heard complaints against a business Hallford ran. He used to manage Sports Cards Wholesale, also in Jacksonville. Ms. Harris said she dealt with the same complaints of unfulfilled orders, despite completed transactions.
“Mr. Hallford was apparently under the impression he could make any kind of policy he wanted and not be held accountable,” she said.
Sports Cards Wholesale closed at the same time Hallford opened Trading Card Collectibles, Ms. Harris said. The BBB tried to work with Hallford to resolve complaints when they started coming in again, but when he ignored the problems, she said she had no choice but to turn him in to the police.
“We’d rather that not happen, but when it came back that the complaints weren’t being answered, then we had a problem,” she said.
Sgt. Daniel Franklin said police investigators contacted at least 400 victims from throughout the United States.
“We’re still getting e-mails from more victims every day,” he said.
Franklin said he planned to contact the FBI within the next few days to discuss the possibility of bringing up Internet fraud charges. He said he doesn’t know how much money Hallford took, but said it could be in the thousands of dollars.
Franklin added that he expects Hallford will face additional charges as the investigation continues.
Ms. Harris encouraged consumers to be careful when making online purchases.
Consumers can do a few things to have a safer online shopping experience, she said: First, do business with a company you trust. Then, make sure the online transaction takes place on a secure server. Usually the bottom of the page will show a lock symbol and the address bar will have “https” before the Web site’s address, she said. Finally, check the company out on the BBB Web site, www.tyler.bbb.org or www.us.bbb.org.
“If the customers had just looked at our site first, they would have known about the other complaints,” Ms. Harris said.