One of the blog’s readers has a serious, long-standing suspicion that he may have been the victim of criminal fraud by Duncan Oldham who carries on business as Koptalk.com aided and abetted by his step-brother Steve McNeish.
He sincerely hopes that this was not the case. He gave them both every opportunity to reassure him. But their response has left him feeling even more uneasy. Now he wants us – that is all those who contribute to and read this blog – to help him find out. Can you help? Is he right even to be suspicious? You decide.
It all started in March 2006 when Koptalk advertised for sale a Champions League ball signed by LFC players. There was a photograph of the ball being held up against what looked like the “This is Anfield” sign at Anfield.
This is the very photo:
There were two versions of the advertisements. Here’s sample excerpts from both. I’ve highlighted some differences between them:
An official Champions League ball signed by approximately 16 members of the Liverpool first team including all the bigs guns such as Cisse, Gerrard, Alonso, Carragher, Garcia and so on. If you are outside the UK and Ireland, please email email@example.com for postage options and pricing before purchasing. Thanks
We have 5 signed Champions League balls available, our first since Christmas 2005. They are signed by approximately 17 first team players including Gerrard, Carragher, Alonso, Hamann, Kewell etc. Any questions? Just go to www.koptalk.info and open a support ticket. If you are outside the UK, please open a support ticket so we can price up the correct postage for you. All balls come with a certificate of authenticity.
Our reader thought that LFC had banned players from signing merchandise items on the gate at Melwood to try and cut down on signed items appearing on places like eBay where it is said that 85% of the LFC signatures are false. If that were the case then the only place to get a real signed ball would be from the club itself.
So he did think about the possibility that the Koptalk merchandise was fake. But not for long. After all this was not Ebay. This was a site that claimed to be the No.1 LFC supporter’s site with access to executives at the club and it claimed to be virtually a not-for-profit enterprise raising revenues only to cover the expenses of running the site.
Surely, our reader thought, Koptalk would not risk its reputation by being involved in fake merchandise? Surely fellow LFC fans in Koptalk would raise the red flag if it was a dishonest offer?
Besides the advertisements said that the balls were official. And the clincher was that they came with a certificate of authenticity.
(This was before this blog got started – before we were able to expose that all Koptalk’s claims were fake – to be No. 1, to have access to executives and to be not-for-profit – and that Oldham and his step-brother quickly banned members who asked awkward questions and eliminated their posts).
I don’t know how what those advertisements say to you, but to our reader it sounded like LFC had authorised Koptalk to sell these balls and that the certificate of authenticty would be from LFC. And if not, at the very least the certificate would offer independent proof that the balls were signed by the players and how they came into the possession of Koptalk and that Koptalk had the legal right to sell them.
Anyway, this is what happened:
16 March 06
He bought a “signed Champions League Ball” from the KT homepage for £109.99 He does not recall if it included VAT – but probably not because KT never collects VAT. He paid by PayPal.
20 March 06
No response from KT. He contacted them to ask if they have his order. They confirmed they have and tell him that they’ll contact him soon about delivery.
23 March 06
He received an email promising delivery within 10 days
7 Apr 06
No sign of the ball yet. He contacted KT again and they tell him that they are awaiting delivery of the ball to the KT office and promise it will be with them soon.
He became uneasy. Why was it taking so long for them to receive delivery something that they had implied in the advertisement that they already had i.e. “We have 5 of these to sell”. They even had a photo of one to prove it.
19 April 06
There was still no sign that the ball was being delivered. He sent another reminder.
28 Apr 06
The ball finally arrives 6 weeks after ordering but without the promised Certificate of Authenticity.
Disappointingly he could not read a single one of the signatures. They might have all been made by a fat spider with inky legs.
Given the run-around he had already been put through he was even more concerned to have a certificate. He contacted Steve McNeish at KT who told him that he would send one that day.
5 May 06
The certificate had still not arrived and he contacted Steve again. Steve apologised again and promised to send it out on Monday.
12 May 06
Two weeks after he first asked for the certificate it had still had not arrived. He contacted Steve who again excused himself by saying that he had not had time to send it with the FA Cup and everything!
17 May 06
He received an email again promising that the certificate would be sent that day.
24 May 06
One week later, still no certificate. Our reader sent the following email to KT:
You sent me the below email, in which you promised to send out a
certificate “today”, a week ago.
The certificate has STILL not turned up. Do you have any intention of
posting it out any time soon?
This is the FORTH time I’ve been promised that it would be sent out
“today”. The first time you made this promise was all the way back on
28th April, in other words a month ago.
If you don’t have the certificates then please just say so instead of
continually promising things that you seem unable to deliver.
My initial order for this ball was placed on the 20th March, over TWO
MONTHS ago. Is it asking too much for the order to be completed in this
amount of time?
Please sort it out
Koptalk did not responded to the above email.
31 May 06
He emailed Koptalk again. But there was no response.
19 Jun 06
The certificate arrived!
By now you know what he was expecting – something very professional from Liverpool FC or its authorised agent on parchment like paper. In fact, being a positive sort, he even hoped that the very long time they were taking to send it indicated that it was because it took that time to get it issued and registered by LFC.
So it was very disappointing and alarming to discover that the Certificate of Authenticty was nothing more than a flimsy piece of printed A4 paper signed by Steve McNeish with a blank “seal”.
I reproduce it below (I have taken the liberty of blurring our reader’s name).
If you are a regular reader of this blog I probably don’t have to tell you that Steve McNeish was 16 years of age at the time he signed that “certificate of authenticity”.
A few weeks later Duncan Oldham told us that Steve had “run away from home”. Oldham said he was so emotionally devasted (and so inconvenienced to have lost his gofer) that he would give up Koptalk if Steve did not come back. At other times he told us that Steve had been helping out on Koptalk since he was about ten years old. He published photos of the younger and older version of Steve on his site.
Would you accept a Certificate of Authenticity from Steve? First there was the question of his age. Can a 16 year old be responsible for a signed commercial contract? Was Oldham using this boy to avoid his own direct involvement in a fraud? The operative word is “used” because Oldham has told us many times how “impressionable” and “thick” and “illiterate” Steve is. He has also told us many times in many different ways how he controls Steve.
Apart from those biographical details would you accept a certificate that the signatures were genuine from the person who had sold them to you if that person was not the original signer or the orignal signers ‘s club or the club’s official agent authorised to sell and give certificates. Because there was nothing in that certificate that proved any of this.
The reader first wrote to the blog in the summer. Insider Insider sent him a couple of links where he could read up on the issue of fake signatures and get some help in identifying those on the ball he had received from Koptalk.
But it didn’t help – he still could not recognise any of the signatures.
He did not write to us again until he read my article last week mentioning other readers who had written to us about their unease that they had been sold fake stuff by Kotpalk. If you did not see that article I have reproduced it below.
If you have any information or advice that would help our reader, and the blog, establish the truth in this matter, please get in touch in the public Comments box below or privately by email. As always we respect your confidentiality.
Before reading my earlier article why not look at the two links the blog sent to our reader in the summer – about the problem of fake LFC player signatures .
Sports Signings shows how to tell fakes from the real thing.
Sporting Idols comments on the fake stuff and how con men operate.
A number of our readers have told us that they are uneasy about the authenticity of LFC memorabilia they bought or ordered from Koptalk in the last few years. It includes footballs and shirts. We want to help them establish the truth.
If you ordered memorabilia from Koptalk in the last 3-4 years please tells us what happened. You can write in strict confidence or post publicly in the Comments section. By sharing your experiences you may find out if they were unique or part of a pattern. It may be your contribution that encourages others to write in.
Koptalk sold the memorabilia as being authentically signed by individual players or the entire team. Because of this they fetched prices up to £500 per item, perhaps more.
They were sold in a variety of ways:
- promoted on the Koptalk website:
- promoted by email offers sent by Koptalk to individual members:
- by a Koptalk auction on E-bay.
Some of the sales were said to be in aid of charity – for Lauren, whom Duncan Oldham claimed was his cousin, or for other appeals. Because sales were for charity, bidders tended to bid more than they normally would.
Causes of Unease
The unease arises from a number of cumulative factors:
- Some of the memorabilia was sent without certificates of authentication. In cases were the recipient repeatedly insisted on a certificate one was belatedly produced and signed by Steve, the 15 or 16-year-old (as he was then) step-brother of Oldham or by Oldham, himself:
- In some cases no invoice was provided and there were other oddities about the transaction:
- In some cases an item was offered at auction as a one-off. After Koptalk announced that it had been sold and delivered to the highest bidder, it sent private letters to other bidders offering them an identical item if they would repeat their failed bid.
- In some cases, the money was paid but the item not delivered. Koptalk has not responded to enquiries from the buyer.
- There was no satisfactory explanation of where and how Koptalk obtained the memorabilia and when it was signed.
- In some cases there are questions about the authenticity of the signatures. These were reinforced when Oldham displayed a photograph of a shirt which he claimed Dirk Kuyt signed in his presence “To Dunk”. But some readers who are experienced in these matters think the photograph has been doctored. While that shirt has not been offered for sale, as far as we know, the possible doctoring of the photo is troubling. Click for the Kuyt shirt story.
- Oldham has never published accounts for the Lauren charity and not everyone got a receipt for their donation. He directed that donations be made out to Koptalk or to his mother’s personal account. He is the sole owner of Koptalk and appears to mix business, personal and charitable revenues and expenditures. He has produced no public accounting of the revenues from the sales of the memorabilia for charity.
- Some buyers have come to learn that Oldham used a football Usenet group to sell illegal Sky satellite cards using a false name, Del Johnson, and was accused by many of his customers of not delivering them and was investigated about it by Trading Standards in North Yorkshire. They have also learned that he has taken deposits for three years on a book he has still not written entitled Anfield Exposed. And they are aware of false representations he has made about direct dealings he said he had with executives of LFC, and other matters that raise questions about his reliability.
We ask those who have already written to us on this topic before the last two weeks, to write again. If possible give us hard information such as dates and prices and photos or links if you have them. If you give us permission to publish any of your information we would remove any detail that could reveal your identity.
Please let us know if any particular item you bought was sold by Koptalk for the benefit of the Lauren or any other charity.
Similarly, if you have subsequently proven the authenticity of any item you bought and were satisfied with the transaction, let us know that, too. We want to be fair.
We appreciate that not everyone would want to pursue a complaint even if our investigation does reveal something wrong. In that case we would write to you privately to see what you want to do.
Photo: Duncan Oldham of Koptalk and the cover of his phantom book.
Click for details