Used-car buyers have been warned against buying vehicles that could have been previously written-off by insurance firms.
Research by car history checking experts HPI showed that criminals are taking advantage of a lack of good quality second hand cars on the market caused by the economic slowdown.
They are trying to sell vehicles which have been written-off by insurers as a good buy.
HPI pointed out the case of Jayne Sauntson, who bought a car for £4,000 but later found out that it had been involved in a serious accident. The case was highlighted in the BBC Watchdog programme.
Nicola Johnson, consumer services manager at HPI, said: "Criminals have been capitalising on a shortage of used cars for sale by disguising write-offs as a good buy.
"One in 25 vehicles we check are recorded as insurance write-offs and the insurers are writing off over 500,000 cars a year, which confirms the scale of the risk to buyers.
"It's all too easy to be taken in by shiny paintwork and a low price, but it could be hiding a multitude of faults that haven't been fixed. Unscrupulous vendors will sell a write-off to make a quick profit but if the vehicle is not properly repaired any price is too high."
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