Motorcheck is warning Irish car buyers to beware and be aware of an increasing trend in scamming or ripping off those buying or selling a used car.
As was reported by Irish journalist Geraldine Herbert on the website www.wheelsforwomen.ie, there is a current scam doing the rounds whereby people selling cars are being duped by phoney buyers bearing bogus bank drafts.
The scam simply revolves around the fact that most of us will unquestioningly accept an apparently legitimate bank draft as being as good as cash. The ‘buyer’ will usually complete the transaction late on a Friday or early on a Saturday, so that the unwitting vendor can’t attempt to lodge the bogus draft for at least 48hrs.
By then the car has been sold on, complete with legitimate paperwork, to an equally unsuspecting third party, who may then find themselves guilty of receiving stolen goods from the car scams and could have their car repossessed.
What to look out for?
Herbert is advising those selling and buying cars to be wary if a buyer or vendor is acting evasively or suspiciously. “If you wish to accept a draft from someone as payment, insist on getting the draft details first and then contact the relevant bank or financial institution to confirm the authenticity of said draft. When buying a car you need to be careful also. Be suspicious if the vehicle is offered at well below its market value. The fraudsters will suggest that the vehicle is a repossessed vehicle, hence the low price AND he or she will insist on being paid in cash. Remember at no time will the new purchaser ever get to meet the individual who is now supposedly selling the vehicle.”
Gardai have also recently warned that this scam is on the rise. There have been 24 incidences of this particular scam so for this year. That is already more incidences than took place in all of 2013.
Sneaky enough though that scheme is, it is far from the worst or only one out there. Even those who have no intention of selling their car can find themselves on the receiving end of a scam, and buyers further down the chain can again find themselves in possession of a car that has essentially been stolen.
Tony Toner is a former Garda and now an instructor at the Institute of Advanced Motorists of Ireland. “It's the middle of the night and you are awoken by a commotion outside your home. You run to the window, pull back the blinds to see your car ablaze outside” he told us. it doesn’t look good. Obviously you call the Fire Service and the Gardai, but your car is in cinders. So, where’s the scam in that?
How is it done?
“Simple really. The Scammers have stolen a car identical to yours. They have then removed your car from your driveway or street parking area and replaced it with the stolen car, complete with your number plates. That car is then set on fire – which awakens you from your slumber and you do the normal of curse quite a bit and call the Services.
“The Fire Service will extinguish the fire, a tow truck will arrive to take away the remnants of your automotive dreams and the chances are you could give the tow-truck driver the car keys and some have handed over the cars documentation. Bad idea.
“In cahoots with the whole scam, the tow truck takes away ‘your’ car plus the keys and paperwork. You or indeed the Garda may never have thought to check the VIN Number of the car and it’s a home run for the Scammers. They return to where your car is securely parked, with the keys and quite possibly the paperwork. Your car can go for sale in a different part of the country or UK – an excellent nights work with a very decent payday for the Scammers.
Another scam to be aware of
A second, similar scam involves your car being stolen and apparently damaged beyond repair. While you accept the vehicle as being a write-off, it is towed away to a convenient location where the necessary parts are easily transferred over from an identical, stolen, vehicle and your car is then sold on.
“Scammers are only clever because we behave stupidly at times of distress, that distress managed totally by them” says Toner.
Clearly then, we all need to tread carefully out there. With more than 300,000 used car transactions taking place in the first quarter of this year alone, the potential scope and scale for touch unscrupulous schemes is enormous and rising used car values just increase the temptation and the profit for those who cross the line.
While we shouldn’t lapse into automatic mistrust of others, we would advise all those selling or buying a car to be alert to anything suspicious and use Motorcheck’s services to be aware of every significant aspect of the history of any potential purchase. The cleverer we all are, the dumber the scammers will look.