RSS Feed

Related Articles

Related Categories

Beware the online car scams

31st August 2011 Print

Online buying has become increasingly popular in recent years, which means more used car buyers than ever are likely to be scouring the internet for their dream car. However, used vehicle information expert HPI is warning used car buyers to proceed with caution, as they can be vulnerable to criminal scams when purchasing a vehicle online.
In a recent survey conducted by HPI, a worryingly large number of those questioned (42%) did not think that buying online made them more vulnerable to these risks than when buying face to face.  Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager for HPI, urges them to think again: “The Internet can offer a wealth of deals and choice; however its relative anonymity can offer rich pickings for criminals looking to turn a quick profit. Buyers need to remain aware of the dangers and be cautious when purchasing online.
“There are several scams that buyers could find themselves at risk from.  One such scam is the ‘virtual car seller’, a sophisticated international scam conning online buyers out of millions of pounds. It starts with an advert in a motor magazine or website, with an English seller who has a top-of-the-range car for sale at a knock-down price.  The seller is usually in Spain or Portugal and needs to offload the car quickly and the buyer won’t be able to see the car as it’s already with a shipping company. The real catch is there is no car and any cash will be long gone by the time the buyer realises that they’ve been had.  HPI has identified key clues that identify these kinds of scams.”
Cloning – or identity theft for cars – is another potential danger when buying online. Criminal gangs steal a vehicle, and then give it the identity of a similar vehicle already on the road. The criminals disguise the unique 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and replace it with that of another, similar, vehicle legally out on the road, as well as using a stolen V5 document to further legitimise its identity. Buyers who protect themselves by running an HPI Check on a vehicle before they go ahead with the purchase get the added protection of the HPI Guarantee.  This provides up to £30,000 financial reimbursement in the event of the car not being everything it seems or the data held by HPI being inaccurate – and also covers consumers in the event that they buy a cloned vehicle. HPI is the only vehicle history check to cover clones within its Guarantee.
Online buyers are also more vulnerable to the traditional scams associated with used car buying.  The HPI Check will reveal whether the car is registered as stolen with the police, has been declared a total loss by an insurance company, or has outstanding finance against it.
Johnson concludes, “With some experts predictingthat 1 in every 5 sales will be online within the next 5 years, buying online is here to stay. Buyers are safe when doing so as long as they ensure they visit the vehicle to inspect it and meet the seller before they purchase it. Nearly 30% of those we asked would be happy to buy a vehicle online without having seen it first, which can leave them open to a number of scams. As with any vehicle purchase, conducting an HPI Check is also essential. The Internet offers a wealth of fantastic bargains for used car buyers however; they need to ensure they tread carefully when buying online, as the seller may not be everything they seem.”