The Trading Standards Institute has issued a warning that people putting their car in for an MOT (and those buying second-hand cars) are being ripped off with fake MOTs - as dodgy traders cash in on a major flaw in the new style of MOT certificate.
So what is happening, and how can you protect yourself?
FakesTrading Standards has issued the warning after a 38-year-old man was arrested by Cleveland Police on suspicion of forging MOT test certificates with intent to deceive. He has been released on bail pending further enquiries by the Cleveland Police.
The concern, according to motor trade lead officer Gerald Taylor, is the ease with which new style MOT test certificates can be faked. They are downloaded from the VOSA website, and can be altered very simply with basic computer software.
Not meant to be proofThe weakness in the certificates is because they were never intended to be full certificates, they were supposed to be simple receipts for the work - and the proof of the MOT was always supposed to be online. However, buyers aren't aware of this change.
"A public awareness campaign has never been launched by the Department for Transport explaining exactly what members of the public should do. When the new system went live, the Trading Standards Institute voiced its concerns to the Minister of Transport and was been assured that this will be taken into consideration when the progress of the new system is reviewed later in 2012."
"We are concerned that motorists still do not know that paper certificates are no longer proof of existence of a valid MOT certificate."
The riskThe risk for owners is that unscrupulous service and repair outlets could agree to MOT a vehicle and charge accordingly but not carry out the test at all. They could then tamper with a downloaded MOT, and you would never know unless you went online to check. Likewise, a trader could show a fake MOT certificate when you come to buy a second-hand car.
Trading Standards is keen to highlight that the only way to ensure a vehicle has been MOT tested is to check online. Taylor explains: "To do this the consumer will need the serial number of the MOT Certificate or the serial number of the V5."
If you are buying a car, he adds: "A reasonable seller would probably show a consumer the online check there and then as it is of no additional cost to the seller. If the seller won't do this or wait until the consumer has completed an online check themselves our best advice is to walk away from the deal."