Car buying scams cost consumers around £3 million a year but you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim by:
- Buying locally from a reputable dealer.
- Always getting a vehicle history check – included with all cars listed on AA Cars.
- Not handing over money to someone you don’t know for a car you’ve never seen.
- Walking away from an offer that sounds too good to be true.
It’s a good idea to check Action Fraud (a national crime reporting centre) and Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group (VSTAG) for the latest information on fraud and other economic crime to help you avoid becoming a victim.
Be aware of the possibility that a shipping website promising to handle and look after your money for a transaction involving a car currently abroad could be fake.
Having expressed an interest in a car located abroad you are directed to a fake website for a shipping company claiming to handle the transfer of funds including the costs of shipping the car to the UK.
The story goes that they will hold your payment and transfer funds to the seller once you have taken delivery of the car and accepted it.
In practice, the funds may be transferred but the vehicle never arrives.
The police and Western Union Bank both recommend that money transfers are only used when sending money to someone you already know and trust.
These scams look more suspicious if you step back and look at the deal from the sellers point of view. Would you really be prepared to price a car well below market value and offer to ship it overseas, and back if the buyer doesn’t like it, all at your own expense?
‘Paper cars’ are another version of the virtual vehicle scam. This time, rather than the car being overseas, the scam involves websites showing adverts copied from other sites but with heavily discounted prices.
Following the advice above and not handing over your money until you’ve seen and accepted the vehicle should stand you in good stead.
Vehicle matching scams
Typically you get cold-called with promises that buyers, looking to buy the same model as you are advertising, are literally lined up waiting. All you have to do is pay a matcher’s fee up-front and you’ll be introduced to the buyer.
Offers are likely to sound too good to be true: buyers lined up; finance already arranged; asking price or more; immediate viewing; refund if they don’t buy.
But often it turns out that there is no buyer, the contract can’t be cancelled and your money is lost.
- Be wary if you are cold called and asked for money in advance.
- Don’t give credit/debit card details to someone you don’t know.
- Don’t be pressured – it’s better to hang up than get ripped off.
- If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
If you think you have been the victim of a vehicle matching scam, or you suspect a scam contact the Citizen’s Advice consumer service.