RAC Cars

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Tips on avoiding fraud

It is always important to be vigilant when buying or selling a car.

  • First and foremost, ensure that you obtain a valid address and telephone number for the seller/buyer. When buying from a dealer, research the dealership. Check whether the dealer belongs to a trade association. This is the same when buying online, make sure that you meet the seller/buyer first.
  • When buying the vehicle it is important that you do not transfer any funds to the seller before you have the opportunity to see and inspect the car.
  • Check any terms and conditions that are part of your contract and ensure that you are happy with them before you sign for the vehicle. Obtain a copy of the terms and conditions for your own records.
  • Check vehicle registration documentation. Additionally, ensure that you see the MOT certificate and report for the vehicle, and ensure any issues raised in the report have been resolved.
  • Check the vehicle’s history and ownership status to ensure the vehicle hasn’t been stolen and doesn’t have any unresolved finance attached to it, as this may mean that the vehicle can be recovered from you by a previous owner or a finance company. If the seller is then untraceable, you may find yourself out of pocket and without a car, with limited legal options to resolve this. An RAC Passport check will often give you the necessary information to avoid such circumstances.
  • A vehicle’s odometer can sometimes be tampered with to suggest the vehicle has a lower mileage than is factually true. The introduction of digital odometers has made this considerably harder, however if possible check the displayed mileage against the mileage recorded in the service history of the vehicle.
  • When buying or selling a car, beware of any request for you to disclose any private information, especially banking details, unless you are absolutely sure the system can be trusted. People in the car market are sometimes targeted by ‘phishing’ scams whereby a text message or email will request that you log onto a website or send an email to another address ‘confirming’ sensitive information, normally banking details. These will then be used to access your account. Never enter your details into these sites unless you are certain that they can be trusted. Reputable selling websites such as RAC Cars direct a buyer directly to a trusted, secure payment site as a built in part of the online payment process. It is very unlikely that a bank or other reputable site would contact you about an urgent security matter by text message or ask you to flow a link to resolve such a matter by unsecured email. Always check that the website and email addresses are correctly spelt in both the link and the address bar of the website. Often a scam website will use an address with a seemingly innocuous spelling error to make it look as legitimate as possible, as well as official logos and small print.
  • If you believe that you have been the victim of fraudulent or dishonest business practices, There are several people you can contact;

    • For concerns about scams and fraud, contact Action Fraud [http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/] on 0300 123 2040
    • If you have concerns about a local business, contact your local Trading Standards
    • If you believe a MOT has not been carried out honestly, contact your local DVSA [https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/driver-and-vehicle-standards-agency] enforcement office.
    • If you believe that a private seller has committed a crime, contact the police on 101. The police are unable to assist with ‘civil matters’ such as contract disputes, however if someone has stolen money from you or sold you a dangerous car, they may be able to help.
  • Be wary if an interested "buyer" does not want to view the vehicle prior to purchase and suggests making payment via PayPal. The “buyer” is likely to then request an agents fee be re-routed via a money transfer facility, such as Money Gram or Western Union. Scammers claim to have transferred the agreed sum into the seller's PayPal account which remains pending until confirmation is received that the agent transfer is complete. It is likely you'll receive e-mails that claim to be from PayPal, which may look authentic, in order to reassure you that it's safe to proceed, it is not and these are fake. Paypal do not hold funds in this manner.