Beware of used car scams

You know the saying - "If the UK sneezes, we get a cold" and in my experience that is very often true. So to that end I came across this from MyCarCheck, the UK consumer vehicle data provider. It recently reported that 32 per cent of the finance checks it conducted in February 2015 flagged up potentially major issues. To further underline the increasing importance of finance checks, MyCarCheck has compiled a list of current used car scams.

Roger Powell, Head of CDL Vehicle Information Services, which owns MyCarCheck, said: “This is a busy time of year in the used car market as the new number plate launch on 1st March boosts sales activity. When buying a secondhand car it is important to be aware of the risks. Many vehicles offered for sale will have a far from perfect history. Others will be outright crooked.

“As well as confirming if a car has been written-off or stolen, a major part of our business these days is checking whether a vehicle is clear of debt. 32% of all finance checks conducted by our Glasgow call centre during February flagged up potentially major issues, usually outstanding finance secured against the vehicle. Of the 30 million cars on our roads, around a quarter are on finance, so this apparently shocking figure is no great surprise.

“As a full member of both the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA ) and the Motor Asset Registration Service (MARS ), our data has saved millions of customers from making an expensive used car mistake. Remember: never pay cash, trust your gut feeling and always check before you buy.”

Top Six Used Car Scams

These are the most common scams reported to MyCarCheck’s Glasgow call centre from Sep 2014 to Feb 2015. Please note: most concern private sales as buying from a registered dealer means additional consumer protection.

1. Asset Fraud

2. Sub Hiring

3. Deposit Fraud

4. Hire Car Scam

5. Escrow Fraud

6. Swap Scam

Asset Fraud: The vehicle being offered for sale carries outstanding finance taken on by someone else. DO NOT purchase such vehicles. The car is not the seller’s to sell and the finance house will not release their interest or title until the agreement has been settled. Some consumers believe they’ll be covered by ‘Innocent Purchaser’ laws, but this isn’t always the case.

Sub Hiring: This activity is widespread and many consumers (often including the seller ) don’t realise it is illegal. The seller admits there is outstanding finance on the vehicle but promises to keep up the payments. Firstly, they DO NOT have the right to offer such terms. Secondly, you have to consider what could go wrong. If they stop paying, the finance house could seize ‘your’ vehicle.

Deposit Fraud: A fraudster will use pressure sales tactics to con buyers into paying a large deposit to secure the vehicle. Common lines include “I’ve got a definite buyer coming in an hour” and “It’s advertised cheaply for a quick sale”. Don’t fall for it. The seller could easily disappear, along with your deposit.

Hire Car Scam: Demands for a deposit also feature in the increasing reports of scams involving hire cars being offered for sale. The fraudster will offer the same deal to as many consumers as possible within a short time period, pocket all the deposits (maybe £1,000 each ), return the car to the hire firm and disappear.

Escrow Fraud: This is one of the oldest scams and can take many different guises. The main points to look out for are: a ) A UK vehicle being offered for sale from abroad b ) Promise of vehicle being shipped once funds are paid into a holding account. Escrow Fraud communications are usually conducted via email.

Swap Scam: This increasingly popular con exploits websites where consumers place their vehicle for sale and wait to see what offers they get. Fraudsters will express an interest and suggest a tempting vehicle in return, but it will often be on finance (asset fraud ) or sometimes stolen.

Any consumers who suspect these activities can call MyCarCheck for advice. We have good links with popular car buying sites and frequently get such adverts taken down before anyone falls victim to them. MyCarCheck.com’s parent company, CDL Vehicle Information Services, performs over a million look-ups a day for companies including AutoExpress, CompareTheMarket, Confused.com, Go-Compare, Moneysupermarket, Swiftcover, Tesco Compare and WhatCar?.

It uses up-to-the-minute data from the Police (NPIA – previously known as the Police National Computer or PNC ), the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA ), the Association of British Insurers (ABI ) and major finance houses including Lloyds TSB and Santander.

To help UK consumers make the right choice, MyCarCheck.com can confirm in seconds whether your potential pride and joy has ever been scrapped, stolen or written-off, has any money owing on it, has had a plate or colour change and much more.

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