Q736: I want to buy a car that has been advertised on the internet, how can I tell whether or not it is genuine?
Just because a car is advertised on a reputable site such as Autotrader or Ebay does not automatically mean that the seller is genuine. Many criminal gangs have been using reputable sites to advertise cars that don't belong to them or don't even exist.
Once the buyer decides that they want the car they are then taken to a fake website where they hand over the cash for a car that they will never see. The website is supposed to hold on to the cash until the vehicle is received (supposedly an independent place to hold the money whilst the deal is done), but it goes straight into the bank accounts of the criminal gangs, most of whom are based abroad.
There are a few ways to spot a fraudulent car sale:
- Check the address and postcode are correct
- Check the contact numbers – for a big company there should be a land line AND a mobile number
- Look out for suspicious voicemail messages and spelling mistakes in emails/messages
- Be wary if you cannot meet the buyer in person or if you can't physically view the car prior to purchase
- HPI check can tell you whether a car is stolen, has any finance owing or if it has been written off – see the website in related information but please note there is a charge for their service
VSTAG (The Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group) is a forum designed to combat vehicle-related fraud and offer protection from this during the buying/selling process. You will find a link to their website in the related information section.