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If you think you've bought stolen goods

This advice applies to England

If you’ve bought something that’s been previously stolen, you shouldn’t get into trouble if you didn’t know it was stolen when you bought it.

Take the item to the police

As soon as you think it's stolen you need to call the police on 101 or take the item to your local police station. They’ll try to return it to its original owner.

You shouldn’t keep the item or return it to the seller yourself - this might be considered ‘handling stolen goods’, which is illegal.

Ask for a refund

Ask the seller for a refund as soon as you can.

The police will give you a crime reference number and property log number when you hand the item in. Show these to the seller as proof that you’ve handed the item in, along with your receipt or any other proof of purchase (eg your bank statement).

If the seller won’t give you a full refund

Your legal rights are slightly different depending on when you bought the item. This is because the law changed in October 2015.

If you bought the item before 1 October 2015

The seller didn't own the goods when they sold them to you, so you can ask for a full refund.

What to say or write

“The police have confirmed that the item was stolen, so you didn’t have the legal right to sell it to me in the first place. I’m ending the consumer contract and asking for a full refund as a form of damages.”

However, the seller can reduce the amount of the refund based on how long you’ve had the item for or how much you used it. In this case you’ll have to negotiate with the seller and decide what’s fair.

If you bought the item on or after 1 October 2015

You have the legal right to full refund from the seller. This applies even if it’s been a while since you bought the item and you’ve only just realised it’s stolen.

What to say or write

“The police have confirmed that the item was stolen. I’m entitled to a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.”

If you paid by debit or credit card

You may be able to get your money back through your bank if the seller’s refusing and you paid by debit or credit card.

Contact your bank and say you want to use the ‘chargeback’ scheme. Many bank staff don’t know about the scheme, so you may need to talk to a manager.

If you paid by credit card and the item cost more than £100, it may be easier to tell your bank you want to ‘make a section 75 claim’. It’s another way to get your money back.

If you still don’t have your money back

You can try to reach an agreement through alternative dispute resolution. This is when you get an independent person to look at your problem to try and find a solution

If that’s not an option, you might want to make a court claim for the money you’ve lost, particularly if it was an expensive item like a car. A court will usually expect you to have gone through alternative dispute resolution first.

You’ll have to pay a court fee, but you might be able to claim the costs back if you win the case. However, if you do win you might have to pay further costs before you actually get the money.

You should think about getting legal advice before taking legal action.

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