By Shelby Brooks

A PHILLIP Island woman is taking a stand against a Cardinia furniture maker who has allegedly taken tens of thousands of dollars from her customers in an elaborate scam.

Sophie Lamberton thought she was helping support a local business – which the Sentinel-Times has decided not to name – by buying a rustic handmade door for her pantry online.

“I did my research. I checked out her ABN details, I looked at reviews. Everything seemed good,” Sophie told the Sentinel-Times.

Sophie paid a deposit of $500 and was reassured the door would be delivered.

But it never came.

“It was traumatic. I feel like I almost have PTSD whenever I buy something now. Am I actually going to get it?”

Sophie took to the business’ Facebook page to demand answers as to where her purchase was and was surprised to receive messages from others who were wondering the same thing.

Over 40 people are now part of a Facebook group set up by Sophie, all victims of the alleged scam.

“We want to stop her from doing this to other people,” Sophie said.

Sophie has taken her complaints to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), Cowes and Pakenham police, and her bank.

Fortunately, Sophie has been able to get her $500 back from the bank, but others weren’t so lucky.

The group estimated the alleged offender has got away with $50,000-60,000 in total, with some individuals out of pocket thousands.

“Obviously, she has control of her Facebook page and she can delete all the negative comments. You only see the good reviews,” Sophie said.

“It’s insane. She’s a nutjob.

“At the moment we’re in the process of going through the Pakenham police trying to get justice. At the end of the day it’s not about the money, it’s about stopping her from doing this to anyone else.”

Cardinia Crime Investigation Unit detectives were investigating a series of alleged online wooden furniture scams this year, a Victoria Police spokeswoman told the Sentinel-Times.

The spokeswoman said it was believed up to 20 victims bought timber wood pieces from an online marketplace and made a substantial deposit payment.

“Once they paid the deposit the online business ceased all contact, leaving the victims without their items or their money back,” she said.

The alleged deceptions occurred between September 2019 and August 2020.

The investigation is ongoing and detectives urge anyone with information in relation to the scam to come forward to police.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.