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Cars, Criminals and Christmas

As the Christmas season draws near, an online consumer car checker warns automobile buyers of seasonal rise in used vehicle scams and recommends ways of avoiding falling into the hands of scammers.

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]hristmas season is traditionally season of giving and receiving. It is a season of high spending and of making brisk businesses by dealers of all manners of goods, including automobiles. It is also a season, when many auto users might want to dispose off their old vehicles for another one.

MyCarCheck Key FobHowever, according to market and security analysts, it is a period, when auto buyers can easily fall into the hands of scammers. In As a result, My Car Check, UK’s No.1 consumer car checker, recently warned intending auto buyers of seasonal rise in vehicle crime, urging them to be extra vigilant.

Roger Powell, Head of CDL Vehicle Information Services (which owns My Car Check), said: “Every year in the run up to Christmas we see a significant increase in all manner of vehicle criminality. There are two main reasons for this: Firstly, it is traditionally a quiet time for vehicle sales, so criminals double their effort to overcome the lull. Secondly, criminals, like the rest of us, have more outgoings over Christmas, except they boost their income by conning innocent members of the motoring public.

“When our call centre team talk about ‘the Xmas rush’, they mean the sharp increase in enquiries concerning suspicious adverts and dodgy deals. All these scams occur throughout the year but we see big increases during December, so used car buyers need to be extra vigilant. Despite the Arthur Daley reputation, it should be noted that the vast majority of problems are in the private marketplace, not with cars bought from bona-fide motor traders.

“Tell-tale signs include lines such as “it’s cheap because I need a quick sale” or “I’ll bring it round for you”, and pressure tactics like “I’ve got another buyer coming in an hour”.

The consumer car checker, therefore, advised auto buyers to trust heir gut feelings and never pay cash, adding that if they suspect a vehicle is not as described, or the deal is in any way crooked, contact our call centre team who are trained to spot such things.”

FIVE COMMON SCAMS

Online escrow con: A potential purchaser is informed that the vehicle is currently abroad and will be shipped as soon as money is paid into an ‘escrow’ holding account.

Advice: Don’t do it. You’re unlikely to ever see your money again and the police will be unable to investigate as you ‘willingly’ transferred the funds.

Stolen/cloned vehicles: Criminals steal a car and change the number plates to disguise it, so you now have two vehicles with the same superficial identity driving around.

Advice: Check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) as well as the plates. Look at the left side of the windscreen underneath where the old tax disc would go.

Not theirs to sell: One in four cars on UK roads is covered by a finance agreement e.g. hire purchase, lease, PCP or bill of sale. The provider often retains legal ownership until the debt is cleared in full.

My Car Check advice: Don’t enter into agreements where you pay the seller on the understanding that they’ll use the money to clear the finance – that’s sub-hiring and it is illegal. Most finance companies now accept third party payments directly from potential purchasers, leaving the seller with the remaining balance.

Cash deals in car parks: Agreeing to hand over cash at a neutral location will be music to a criminal’s ears. Once they’re gone, they’re usually gone for good.

My Car Check advice: Completing the handover at the seller’s address, which should match that on the red and blue V5C, is good practice. ‘No log book, no sale’ is another golden rule.

Sold with only one key: All seems fine but the vehicle only comes with one key. Sometime later the buyer finds their car has disappeared. No prizes for guessing who had the second key.

My Car Check advice: It’s an old trick but it still works. The seller claiming to only have one key should be a definite deal breaker.

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