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Car buying scam: sellers advised to be cautious

25 Jul 2012 at 14:41

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Car traders and private sellers are not normally the ones who lose out when trading a used car. Usually, it’s the buyer that gets the raw deal: risks include the car not being up to scratch, or the seller taking the money and running without handing over the keys.

Car traders and private sellers are not normally the ones who lose out when trading a used car. Usually, it’s the buyer that gets the raw deal: risks include the car not being up to scratch, or the seller taking the money and running without handing over the keys.

Lately, however, there’s been a growing trend for private sellers to be stung for cash.

The schemes generally work by targeting internet-based car adverts. The process is that the seller receives a text message or an email offering to buy their vehicle for close to the advertised price. Nothing unusual there, you might be thinking? Indeed, in today’s depressed car market, something to be welcomed?

However, the seller is then pushed into unwittingly giving out their details by paying a booking fee, before being told they’ll receive the full amount in cash on collection of the vehicle.

In reality, once the seller’s details are logged, the supposed company buying their vehicle disappears into thin air. This leaves the seller with one used car and a bank account up to £100 down. It doesn’t sound much, but over hundreds of vehicles the balance adds up.

Some scammers are particularly unscrupulous. RAC is aware of at least one organisation using our old logo to add gravitas to their potential offer and create the impression of a reputable company.

We are thus taking action. After receiving complaints from an unfortunate group of motorists preyed on by a set of unscrupulous individuals, we’ve reported the scam to the Trading Standards e-crime team. Together, our two organisations – along with other affected businesses – will stamp this out.

The basic warning is clear: if you’re selling second-hand online, you need to be careful – don’t give out any details over the phone or online.

RAC lawyer Scott Morrison says: “People looking to sell their vehicles should be very careful, if they are approached by any organisation asking for any sort of online payment upfront ahead of a cash payment on collection.”

RAC is urging anyone affected by unlawful dealings to contact the Citizens’ Advice Helpline on 0845 4040 506.