10 most common scams: Car fraud


New car that has been sold

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, online car fraud, which costs the UK £17.8 million each year, according to figures from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and Get Safe Online.

How does it work?
The most common online car fraud involves the buyer making a partial or full payment for a vehicle, before finding that they can no longer get in touch with the supposed vendor.

Detective Superintendent Pete O'Doherty, Director of the NFIB at the City of London Police said: "Unfortunately, not all adverts posted on the internet are legitimate, with thousands of buyers falling foul of fraudsters last year."

Most of the payments requested by fraudsters are done by bank transfer, with criminals also using fake Google Payment Systems Invoices offering non-existent "buyer protection" and "holding accounts" to persuade people they should part with their cash.

How can I avoid being caught out?
Ways to protect yourself against online car fraud include checking the seller's history by reviewing the ratings given by other buyers, and comparing prices before avoiding any "bargains" that seem too good to be true.

Before handing over any money, it is also vital to arrange to meet the seller in person at a safe location and test drive the vehicle on a variety of roads, and to carry out an HPI Check, which tells you if a vehicle is registered as stolen or has been written off in the past.

And if you do make an online payment, check first that the website is secure (the address should start https, not http) and pay with a credit card where possible.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?
If you get scammed when trying to buy a car online, your first move should be to report the fraud to Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud reporting centre (0300 123 20 40).

If you made a payment by credit card, you should also contact the card company to see if you can claim the money back under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

Other common scams
Ticket fraud
Boiler rooms
Auction websites