It has never been easier to buy or sell a vehicle online, quickly, in confidence and hassle-free. However, the Internet has also made it easier for dishonest buyers and sellers to defraud people. Below are a handful of things you need to be aware of before going online to buy or sell a vehicle.
Get started safely…
When buying – always view the vehicle and check its authenticity against documentation before parting with any payment. If in any doubt, seek an expert’s opinion.
When selling – do not pay any advance ‘shipping’ fees and always receive cleared payment in full before handing over the vehicle.
Read our in-depth articles below to get up to speed with the potential pitfalls involved in buying and selling trucks.
- Never send money abroad, to a ‘payment protection’ service or pay a large deposit.
- Pay for a vehicle when you physically collect it – never buy a vehicle without seeing or driving it first.
- Always check the vehicle’s market value by getting a valuation or comparing the price to similar models advertised for sale. If a vehicle is being offered at a much cheaper price, ask yourself why.
- Physically check the vehicle, preferably in daylight, and it’s documentation – V5C document, service history and MOT certificates before handing over any money. Ensure that these documents are originals, not photocopies. Ensure the authenticity of a V5C by checking that it has a DVLA watermark and that the serial number isn’t between BG8229501 to BG9999030 or BI2305501 to BI2800000. If it is the V5C might be stolen, call the police if this is the case.
- Check the mileage appearing in the milometer matches its service history and old MOT certificate. On analogue mileometers, ensure that numbered barrels line up.
- Check that the vehicle identification number (VIN) is the same as on the V5C. The VIN can commonly be found on the chassis, on the windscreen or on the floor by the driver’s seat. Also check for tampering around the VIN numbers to ensure that the vehicle is not a ‘ringer’.
- View the vehicle at the seller’s home and check the address is the same as the one listed on the V5C. Ensure that the seller is the recorded keeper; otherwise they may not be legally entitled to sell the vehicle.
- Get a car history check to find out whether the vehicle has been recorded as stolen, written off, scrapped or is subject to outstanding finance.
- Never pay any ‘shipping’ fees – this is one of the most common online scams.
- Avoid buyers being left alone with your vehicle. Keep hold of the keys at all times, avoid leaving keys in the ignition and never let a buyer test drive a vehicle alone.
- Make sure any test driver has a valid driver license and suitable insurance cover. You could be liable for any accidents they may have otherwise.
- Never hand over the vehicle or documentation until you have fully received all payment.
When taking payment ensure:
- Cash – ask for the cash to be handed to you in the bank, where the notes can be paid in immediately and checked for forgeries
- Cheques – never let the buyer take your vehicle until the funds have appeared in your bank account as the Cheque could be forged, cancelled or stolen
- Online bank transfers – again never let the buyer take your vehicle until the funds have appeared in your account
- Bank drafts – treat these like a personal cheque
We are aware of fraudulent buyers proposing PayPal as a method of payment, often offering the entire value of the vehicle without viewing the vehicle. In our experience this is a scam, using accounts created with fraudulent credit card details.
This scam works like this:
Sellers will receive a text message from a company offering to buy your vehicle for a reasonable price. Sellers are then invited to go online and enter their vehicle details. You will then receive an email with your valuation asking you follow a link to a website. You will be asked to fill in your details so the company can collect the vehicle. You will be advised that a “refundable” deposit will have to be paid via a Pay Point to complete the sale. You are told that you will receive the refund on collection of your vehicle. The reality is no one will collect your truck and you will not get your money back.
The Overpayment Scam Explained
The latest of these cons, the 'overpayment' scam, has seen many businesses left seriously out of pocket, so make sure you're not left out of pocket by fraudulent cheques.
An increasing trend has seen more businesses targeted by the ‘overpayment’ scam. This is where a new customer, often based abroad, orders goods and pays into the company account with either a cheque or bankers draft.
Following payment, the customer emails to cancel the order or to state that an error has been made and requests an urgent refund.
Companies are immediately refunding via an electronic payment facility only for the original cheque or draft to be returned unpaid as it is fraudulent, leaving the company out of pocket. This scam can happen to anyone, with detrimental effects.
Recently Exit Interiors, of Harrogate, were left close to bankruptcy when they were scammed out of almost £50,000 by a customer from the Middle East.
After being informed by the client that he had mistakenly paid £52,000 instead of £5,200, company manager Alex Duke quickly refunded the difference, only to find out that the customer had actually paid with a fraudulent cheque, unfortunately leaving the business out of pocket, as local Police refused to get involved.
Duke explained: "I had described what had happened to the bank, and despite being told later that it was a known scam, they didn’t pick up on the signs.
"I just thought ‘this can’t be true’. I felt I had protected myself all the way and it was the bank that let me down.
"I reported it to the police but they told me they couldn’t do anything about it, even though we managed to get the fraudster’s telephone number. They told me it wasn’t worth them looking into it."
In order to avoid being targeted remember the following steps when accepting cheques from unknown parties:
- In any transaction, independently confirm the buyer’s name, street address and telephone number.
- Don't assume that the cheque is legitimate, even if it’s a cashier’s cheque, just because your bank accepts it for deposit. It may take weeks for the bank to learn that it is counterfeit.
- Always make sure you know that any funds paid into your account are irrevocable before making a refund.
- Always exercise caution when forming new relationships with potential customers, especially if these customers are based abroad.
- Never feel pressured into making a refund or transaction.
- Never be afraid to refer to your colleagues if you feel that something just isn’t right about an instruction or payment.
- When making any refund, always consider any financial risk to your business.
- Don’t accept a cheque for more than the purchase price of the product or service, no matter how tempting. Ask the buyer to write the cheque for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, return the cheque and do not send the merchandise.
- You are the party who is ultimately liable to your bank. Be careful!
If you think you have been a victim of vehicle fraud report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 2040 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk
A government-funded website providing information on how to resolve consumer issues once goods or services have been purchased
Direct.gov Buyer Beware
Tips on how to stay safe from fraud when buying online, including an interactive guide to the V5C.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) maintains records of licensed drivers and registered vehicles for the Department of Transport.
MOT Validity Check
Check if a MOT certificate is legal or if a vehicle had failed its MOT test online with Directgov by submitting the MOT certificate number.
A not-for-profit organisation which seeks to safeguard consumers’ health and safety and wellbeing from unscrupulous customers.