Motor Industry News
The Number 1 Scam facing Private Used Car purchasers. Revealed by mycarcheck.com's Investigation Team.
Are you looking to buy now? If you answer YES to any of the following three questions then maybe you ought to investigate further ...
- Is the vehicle being offered for sale as a UK vehicle but is in Spain, say? YES/NO
- Are there requests to transfer monies to a holding account? YES/NO
- Is there any indication that the vehicle will be shipped to you? YES/NO
If YES is answered to one of the above questions, you will probably find it applies to all three. This is probably your introduction to the #1 Scam facing used car private purchasers when buying through internet sites.
It is sad to say that in August 2011 we have seen the largest increase in such crime and although the scam remains the same, the vehicles change, as do the internet ads, in very quick succession.
This is big business fraud and the tactics are good, which is why people become another statistic or victim of vehicle fraud. Neither of which will return any funds handed over. Also, think about this. If you are a victim, what is the crime? No one held you at gunpoint in the bank to make you transfer funds. Police are less likely to register this sort of crime.
Internet policing is tricky because jurisdiction only allows forces to work within their respective force areas. Again, this highlights the shortfalls that most forces face. Criminals will always find the cracks in the law. This scam appears to have become 'untouchable' to investigate - we are looking to change this.
Car purchasers across the UK are still falling foul of scams that are in operation across the used car marketplace. All of the scams (mostly) arise through private sale listings and, even in an age of austerity and motor traders feeling the pinch, it comes as some relief to report that the problems do not come from dealers.
Unfortunately the statement above will come as little comfort to the victims of the scams and they inevitably are the ones that lose their cash when caught out. If I could provide one piece of valuable information to used car purchasers it would be 'Trust your gut feeling'. If something doesn’t feel right or somehow appears 'too good to be true' then it generally is.
Why not ask some questions before you spend your cash? Buying cars is simple, when you know what to look for. There is no great science to purchasing a vehicle; a good bit of research and homework granted, but it's your money that's on the line. Who am I to tell you how to spend it? Even with legitimate transactions there is a lot to consider before you spend your £5k, say. Running costs, tax, insurance, etc. Also please note that if I could get rid of the term 'Good Faith' it would be gone tomorrow – it’s your £5k on the line. There is no rush to spend it. Don’t be fooled by auction scenarios via websites. These are probably the single biggest contributory reason for consumers' 'panic buying' before they have had time to apply the 'Check BEFORE you buy' logic. However, all of the above common logical approach to car purchasing tends to go out of the window when it comes to SCAMS!!
In 2009, a customer approached us, ironically a policewoman, via our contact centre in Glasgow to announce "I’ve been looking at a BMW Z4 via an internet site ... " and "there’s just something not right". Luckily we had been provided with several emails from a previous customer regarding the same vehicle and the same advert. A BMW Z4, worth £12k being offered for £7k. The pictures looked great.
** Tip 1 ** - If a vehicle is seriously under value compared to other similar vehicles being offered for sale then there is generally a reason why. Previously written off is normally one of the main reasons. Remember, genuine sellers will want to obtain the best sale price they can, not give it away for a song. This is the scammer’s way of luring in as many potential victims as possible.
As I was aware of the scam now from two previous customers, I decided to enquire on the vehicle over the weekend as a potential and somewhat 'naive' innocent purchaser. Please see below for the full email trail of how they aim to lure unsuspecting buyers into the scam.
** Tip 2 ** - Always ensure that you speak with the seller. If, for example, you try to call the number placed in the advert and it always rings without being answered, or it goes to a foreign answerphone which you cannot understand, then the advert may be a scam.
Subject: Z4 on XXXCARSITE To: “Findlay Dunn” Date: Friday, 7 August, 2009, 7:22 PM
Hi there, Saw the Z4 ad on XXX internet site, looks great & a good price. Can you please provide more details: -Does the car have full service history? -Is it one owner from new? -Where are you & the car based? (I live in Scotland so everywhere is far away :-/ ) Could you please email me back on this email address. Thanks in advance
Subject: Re: Z4 on xxxCarSite To: Date: Friday, 7 August, 2009, 8:27 PM
Hello, I am glad to hear that you are interested to buy my 2007 Bmw z4 2.0i SE! Although I am registered in the UK, I recently moved to Huelva, Spain (where my family is from) and the car is being shipped from here. I want to sell it in UK due to the fact that it's an UK version (right handed), it meets all UK standards. I bought this car from UK and It still has UK registration, so you won't have to pay any import and insurance fees.. The car meets all United Kingdom guidelines so there will be no problem regarding UK Customs policy on receiving the car. The car is in perfect condition, the bodywork is immaculate, no scratches, dents or hidden defects as well as the interior in excellent non-smoking condition , never been implied in any accident and it is as advertised .The car comes with log book, HPI cleared, No finance. You will get from me the keys and all documents to register the car in you name. If the car is not how I described it, I will offer a full refund. It will be insured during transportation and will be delivered at your address in maximum 10 days. Final price is GBP 7,000 (the price includes shipping and insurance fees).The price is low because the car is right hand drive in a country where all cars are left hand drive so in the Spain is very difficult to drive this type of vehicle and nobody wants to buy it here in Spain. Instead of keeping it in garage (during this economical crisis), I decided to sell it to someone back in the UK for a really attractive price. I want to take this opportunity to assure you that this deal is 100% legitimate, the financial part of this deal will be managed by a company that has offices in both UK and Spain and in this way both buyer and seller are 100% covered during the steps of this transaction. Let me know if you need any further details or if you would like to buy my car. Thank you
From: Subject: Re: Z4 on xxxCarSite To: "Finley Dunn" Date: Friday, 7 August, 2009, 9:53 PM
Hi Thanks for all the info. As I already asked: -Does the car have full service history? -Is it one owner from new? -Are you foreign because your grammar & English is really poor? -Do you have contact no / address that I can contact further? -IF I was going to proceed further towards a sale I would only be happy to do the deal in cash (face to face) or by bankers draft, hence why I would need an address to send it to. Regards
From: Subject: Fw: Re: Z4 on xxxCarSite To: "Findlay Dunn" Date: Saturday, 8 August, 2009, 12:53 PM
Hi I never got any answers back regards my email last night. Can you answer the questions below for me & email back or have you sold the vehicle already? I am a serious buyer & have the cash available for the right vehicle. I want to look to get the car in the next week or so cos I have some time off work to arrange all. Thanks
From: Finley Dunn Subject: Re: Fw: Re: Z4 on xxxCarSite To: Date: Saturday, 8 August, 2009, 2:24 PM
Hello, I am the second owner and i bought it from a private seller , the car comes with a full service history and yes i am foreigner ( my mom is from spain and my dad was from uk ). Coming here would be a good idea but i can not promise you that i will still have it available unless you will be here in the next 1-2 days. As i have over 30 interested buyers, some of them already accepted the third party deal and shipping to UK. The car is already crated at the shipping company as i'm looking for a fast and safe deal. Thank you
From: Subject: Re: Fw: Re: Z4 on xxxCarSite To: "Finley Dunn" Date: Saturday, 8 August, 2009, 3:01 PM
Hi If I decided to pay via the Yahoo payment method could you please provide me with the name of the shipping company & where would the car arrive in the UK? As you can appreciate I would like to know this prior to any monies being transferred. I wouldn't want to pay for the vehicle & then find it got 'lost in the post' via the shipping company. Kind regards
From: Finley Dunn Subject: Re: Fw: Re: Z4 on xxxCarSite To: Date: Saturday, 8 August, 2009, 3:19 PM
Hello, Shipping company its called Mediterranean Shipping , you can visit them at www.mediterranean-ship.co.uk . The car will be delivered at your address in 10 days . Please let me know your thougths . Cheers, Finley
** Tip 1 ** - DO NOT BELIEVE THAT JUST BECAUSE A WEBSITE FOR THE SHIPPING COMPANY IS PROVIDED IT MEANS THAT IT IS LEGITIMATE.
We have contacted Mediterranean Shipping regarding this. They are a genuine company and they trade globally, however, note that their genuine website address is: http://www.mscgva.ch/. What the fraudsters have done is copy the original website and apply an altered web address, i.e. www.mediterranean-ship.co.uk (This website does not exist and will be pulled down once the scam is successful.)
From: Subject: Re: Fw: Re: Z4 on xxxCarSite To: "Finley Dunn" Date: Saturday, 8 August, 2009, 4:40 PM
Hi Findley, Great news the shipping co. have an office in Glasgow, would it be possible for me to present a bankers draft cheque into their offices? I could take it in on Monday? Best wishes
From: "Finley Dunn" Subject: Re: Fw: Re: Z4 on xxxCarSite To: Date: Saturday, 8 August, 2009, 6:11 PM
Hello, I will use only Yahoo to handle the financial part of this transaction. Please let me know if you agree with this. Regards,
As our readers will appreciate, the fraudster was not interested when he realised I had not been sucked into the scam and was not prepared to transfer funds across without receiving the vehicle first.
Also to note for any unsuspecting buyers that do transfer funds, there will be no police action if you were to report the fraud. Fraud is considered a secondary offence in this day and age and as such it will not get investigated any further. Furthermore, police forces may not be prepared to register the fraud as a crime due to the fact that 'No one MADE YOU transfer your cash'.
There are a number of variations of this scam; different vehicles, different countries being offered from, and so on. Also, a variation exists where they pose as a 63 and 64 year-old couple that have recently moved to Thurso in Scotland, although again they would only supply the vehicle when funds had been paid across 'to ensure you are serious about the purchase.'
It is also worth highlighting to readers that we generally receive calls weekly regarding these scams. Customers will generally forward on email correspondence, but usually too late to stop others seeing the advert before it can be removed and before it can be fully investigated. Unfortunately we do still receive calls from customers that have transferred the funds and the vehicle has still not arrived three weeks later.
At Mycarcheck.com, when we are notified of these scams we have made good inroads with advertisers to ensure the advert is pulled with immediate effect. Sometimes though, the first notification we receive is when the funds have already been transferred.
Due to the regularity of this scam, we, as a company, are pro-active and always aim to contact any enquirers directly via our services that the vehicle being offered is a scam. It is taking a good many customers by surprise that we are that vigilant in our approach regarding this scam, although many are very pleased we do and have, luckily, got to them before they have transferred their funds. We are finding that once we have saved them from making an expensive mistake they will become customers for life. Also, with so many consumers using our services (2.2 million last year), we have a good army of car purchasers out there that certainly were not looking to lose their cash.
We have telephone numbers clearly listed on our website for customers wishing to ask questions regarding potential purchases. Our view is that if you need to ask the question, please call and ask it - it could stop you making an expensive mistake and potentially spending your cash based on photographs of a vehicle that will never arrive.
ALWAYS check before you buy.
Mycarcheck Investigation Team - August 2011