Motorists are falling victim to fraudsters who are placing bogus adverts selling cars online.
Car buyers are warned to watch out for the scams after around six out of 10 told vehicle data firm HPI that they felt more vulnerable buying online than face-to-face.
The survey findings revealed two common scams perpetrated by online fraudsters:
The shipping con – HPI claims this trick has netted fraudsters millions by pretending a car is for sale at a bargain price. The trick is the fraudster lies that the car is in transit, so is unavailable for viewing but stresses that if the buyer wants to do a deal, the money needs transferring straight away.
Once the cash is wired, the victim realises there is no car and the money has gone for good. The crooks often advertise luxury brand cars at cheap prices to tempt buyers.
Cloning cars – a car is stolen and given the registration and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of an identical make and model. Vehicle documents like the V5 log are also forged. The crooks pose as the owner selling the car and hand over the keys to the bogus car when the victim pays up.
Nicola Johnson, of HPI, urges motorists to check out a car with the HPI database before buying to beat the fraudsters.
“The internet can offer a wealth of deals and choice. Its relative anonymity can offer rich pickings for criminals looking to turn a quick profit. Buyers need to remain aware of the dangers and be cautious when buying online,” she said. “There are several scams that buyers could find themselves at risk from.”
Johnson claims checking the car details with the firm can reveal whether the car is stolen, is written-off as a wreck by a car insurance company, or has outstanding finance listed.
“With some experts predicting that one in five sales will be online within the next five years, buying online is here to stay,” said Johnson.
“Buyers are safe when doing so as long as they ensure they visit the vehicle to inspect it and meet the seller before they buy. Nearly 30% of those we asked would be happy to buy a vehicle online without having seen it first, which can leave them open to a number of scams.
“The internet offers a wealth of fantastic bargains for used car buyers however; they need to ensure they tread carefully when buying online, as the seller may not be everything they seem.”