Rise in Online Car Scams

Posted by Shane Teskey on 20 January 2012 in Ask the Experts, How we've helped, Used Car Buying Tips

At Motorcheck we receive a steady stream of comments from consumers who feel that they might have stumbled across an internet scam. However this year we’re seeing an increase in one particular kind of scam that we want to draw your attention to.

This fraud involves a seemingly genuine vehicle that has been advertised at a fantastic price. The ad will contain pictures of what we call a ‘Ghost Vehicle’. This is a car that was once genuinely advertised and the fraudster stole the pictures for later use in a fake ad.

The fraudster may even purchase a Motorcheck report for the vehicle and publish a link to it for the unsuspecting buyer to view. Normally the ‘Ghost Vehicle’ will have a very good record with Motorcheck which can give buyers the false impression that the ad is genuine.

At Motorcheck we use a variety of methods to identify these reports. If you see this page when attempting to view a report you’ve seen mentioned in an online ad you can be fairly certain that the vehicle being advertised is being used as part of an elaborate scam.

There are of course other ways of identifying a scam which every buyer should be aware of.

Top 5 Indications of an Online Scam

  1. Is the price too good to be true? Most scammers will attract your attention by advertising a ‘Ghost Vehicle’ well below its market value.
  2. Are any of the contact details suspect? Fraudulent ads will usually have a phone number that’s missing a digit or not available. The email address will be from a free email provider like Gmail or Yahoo and any attempts to make contact by phone will usually be rejected.
  3. Does the seller have an elaborate payment process? A typical online scammer will never actually show you the car. Their goal is to convince you to make a deposit or payment via Western Union, Ebay or Paypal without actually having seen the car.
  4. Does the seller have difficulty using English grammer? A common trait with fraudsters can be poor grammer and multiple spelling mistakes. Most of the perpetrators operate from outside Ireland and English may not be their mother tongue.
  5. Does the Motorcheck report show a large number of recent enquiries? If a car has a positive history check yet there have been a large number of enquiries (more than 5) over the past month we recommend caution. There must be some reason why the car hasn’t sold that Motorcheck is not aware of and an online scam can be one of them.

Further Checks

For further advice from Motorcheck on how to identify and avoid car related scams click here.

Boards.ie also have a popular scam thread on their motor forum

If you think you have come across a car related scam or would like our advice on any advertisement you can leave a comment below and we’ll be in touch.

Other Posts we've Written on This Topic

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  3. New Car Registrations Rise 90%

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  4. Online car reliability surveys aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on

    With car reliability surveys a number of the demerits customers & owners hand out have...

3 comments so far

Peter Fox
August 4, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

Two weeks ago a man rang my mobile saying he was interested in buying the car for his mother. We arranged to meet them both. She drove the car, I was in the back seat.
They checked the car over, she was as expert as he was. It seemed to that for an old lady she knows cars inside out. Then they weren’t sure but said they would get back to me.
The following week he rings to say that he would buy the car subject to a mechanical check.
He arrived with another guy. This guy wanted to take the car for a test run. I said ok & and sat into the passenger seat, then he changed his mind. He then started to check the oil & the other man started to test the clutch. I stood in front of the car while this was going on. They said they would come back in a half hour because they were not sure what they were going to do. I feel the whole thing smacked of a scam. I still have his phone no and their fingers prints are all over the bonnet.

Shane Teskey
August 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

Hi Peter,

Sounds like you had a lucky escape there! You obviously had a feeling that something was up and made life difficult for the potential thief. Hopefully you’ve since had a genuine buyer to work with.

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