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    Car Buying Scams

    When it comes to cars - because of their appeal and value - there will be some people who aim to take advantage of the unwary seller. This might range from so-called vehicle matching services to full payment fraud. Look for the signs and put yourself in the buyer’s shoes: would you buy a car without having seen it, for example?

    An amount of genuine haggling over price can be healthy and result in an agreeable outcome for both seller and buyer but here are some of the more sinister tricks…

    Vehicle matching

    Be wary of any cold callers once you have advertised your car. Vehicle matchers often promise to have buyers lined-up and for a fee will introduce buyer and seller. Invariably they will just take your money and there will be no buyer. Consider using the option of a ‘safe number’ if the advertiser offers one. This means that callers can’t see your real number which should help prevent cold calling.

    The fake buyer

    The fake buyer will aim to take money from you, even though they are supposed to be paying you for your car. So if someone says they want to buy the car without seeing it but asks you to pay for its transportation, you can be pretty sure the transport company isn’t real and nor is the buyer.

    The fake expert

    It is not unreasonable for a buyer to turn up with a friend to view a car. In fact it is always sensible to have an extra pair of eyes to inspect any vehicle. However if this friend is pitched as an expert and starts to find multiple faults which you don’t entirely believe - in order to haggle the price down - this should set alarm bells ringing. It could simply be a tactic to make you think your car is worth less than it is and sell it for a lower amount.

    Test drive

    Allowing a stranger to test drive your car can be concerning. Will they have insurance in case they damage your car? Will they simply drive off into the sunset never to be seen again?

    You should always check with the insurance firm (or use your own) and accompany the driver. You should ask to see a valid driving licence. And if you swap seats during the drive, remove the keys from the car’s ignition. And if you feel uncomfortable, consider taking a friend.

    Being paid

    Ensuring you receive full payment is essential before your valuable asset is driven away. If a buyer offers to pay on-line, beware of the fake confirmation e-mail showing a transfer has taken place. Has the money actually reached your bank?

    Also beware the overpayment. A buyer will ’accidentally’ claim to have overpaid and will request you refund the difference. The cheque may well have been fake and therefore you are simply handing over your car and paying extra cash as well.

    Finding faults after buying

    Private sales are usually ‘sold as seen’. To help prevent a buyer returning to complain there is a fault with your vehicle (which may not have been present when you sold it) you should create a selling contract. Two copies of the contract should be created and each signed by both the buyer and seller. We suggest they include wording such as: ‘sold as seen and no warranty is given or implied’. See our page on selling contracts.

    Here are our top tips to avoid scams:

    • When advertising, accurately describe the car.
    • Be very wary of buyers who won’t come and view the car.
    • Don’t be fooled by fake e-mail receipts.
    • Use search engines to validate a buyer’s phone number or e-mail address if you have doubts.
    • Ensure payment has fully cleared into your bank account before you part with the car.
    • Ask to see proof of ID: if a buyer has nothing to hide, they shouldn’t mind being asked to present a valid form of identification with a photograph such as a driving licence.

    Expert articles on car buying scams