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Ebay tells gardener, 22, to pay up £1m

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A German gardener has been told to cough up almost £1 million by an online auction company after winning bids for a luxury house, expensive car and a small aeroplane were made in his name.

Thomas Vogel, from Munich, said he thought it was a bad joke when he received emails from Ebay telling him he had successfully bid for items totalling £976,000.

The 22-year-old said: "I had to ask my girlfriend to check the emails as I couldn't believe what I was reading."

As well as a large property worth more than £830,000, he had also bought a Mercedes Roadster worth £101,000 and a light aircraft worth £27,000, among other objects.

Mr Vogel immediately told Ebay, and the police, that he had not bid for any of the items but the auctioneers said the contracts had to be honoured.

Ebay spokeswoman Heike Fuss told German newspaper Abendzeitung: "We are very careful to make sure that our security system has no holes in it and that it can't be attacked by hackers.

"In the past there have been one or two similar cases where customers claim not to have bought the goods, but we do not believe it was the work of hackers. More than likely they were not careful with their passwords."

Mr Vogel said he has now started to receive legal notices from the companies whose products he bought through Ebay, demanding that he either pay up or face court action.

He said: "I don't know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to pay. I can't plant that many trees."