The UK’s community bank, Metro Bank, is offering consumer guidance about the rise in purchase scams around car sales, finance and leasing as the new number plates launch in September.
Purchase scams can take many forms, but the release of new car licence plates drives an increase in scams around the sale and finance/leasing of vehicles as this is a key buying month for UK drivers.
Criminals will entice drivers with best deal offers often advertised on auction sites, such as eBay and Gumtree, or via social media. In reality, these best deal cars do not exist; the criminals steal the images from genuine sellers to convince potential buyers that they have the vehicle. Sometimes criminals may use cloned websites with slight changes to the URL to trick buyers into thinking they are purchasing from a genuine website.
Buyers are not the only ones being duped. Drivers looking to lease/finance a vehicle are also targeted. Criminals pose as a leasing or finance company encouraging drivers to pay a deposit, for a non-existent car.
How to Spot the Scam
Pre Purchase Clues
- Prices that are too good to be true with vehicles considerably cheaper than market average usually via social media posts or advertisements.
- The website offering the vehicle has only recently been launched.
- Being approached out of the blue with a great deal.
- Being advised that the vehicle will be shipped and you can return it if unsatisfied.
Point of Purchase Clues
- Being pressured to make a quick decision.
- Being offered leasing or financing with no credit/affordability checks being completed.
- No, or extremely low, deposit options could be a red flag.
- The seller requesting funds via bank transfer only.
How to Protect Yourself:
- Request to see the vehicle in person, if this is not possible arrange a video call before paying any money (even a deposit).
- Look out for poor format and grammatical errors/changes in the advertisements and subsequent correspondence.
- Ask for details about the car such as the vehicle identification number (VIN) and check this information matches the V5 document.
- Always get a full vehicle history check for peace of mind through government website: https://www.gov.uk/get-vehicle-information-from-dvla
- Check seller/company’s independent reviews before making payment or paying deposits.
- Make any payments via secure online payment platforms and don’t come away from payment platforms, as there may be no protection off platform.
- When buying second hand, offer to pay a small deposit and remaining balance on collection/delivery.
- Ensure any emails/contact you receive relating to the purchase/lease of a car are from the genuine merchant.
“After their homes, cars are most people’s biggest asset which is why these purchase scams are so distressing for the victims. Investing in a car is a significant spend and thieves target these purchases because of the amounts of money involved,” explains Adam Speakman, head of fraud and investigations at Metro Bank. “We definitely see an uplift in this type of fraud around the issue of new car licence plates and advise anyone not buying a car from a reputable dealer during these periods to be extra cautious before purchasing.”