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The cost of online car fraud

By raccars Published

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A survey by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), has revealed the true extent of the problem of fraud concerning online car sales. According to the NFIB study, around 6,600 victims were defrauded of a total of almost £18 million last year, averaging a shade over £4,000 per incident. It should also be remembered that these figures only include those victims who have come forward, with many more likely to be too embarrassed to admit their mistakes. In 37% of the reported cases, the car seller simply disappeared after taking a deposit payment for the supposed vehicle. There are also more subtle cons, however. These can include fake Google and eBay invoices and fake holding accounts. All result in frustration and frequent and substantial financial loss.

The findings are backed up by HPI, who carry out data checks to make sure that cars are properly available for sale. Their consumer services manager, Shane Teskey, confirms: "Some fraudsters take money for cars that are advertised online, but don’t actually exist. Once the seller has the money they disappear. Online sellers will often come across as friendly, offering to make the sale as easy as possible, while at the same time offering a bargain. This makes it very tempting for buyers to rush into a purchase."

More traditional frauds include selling cars that have been written off. These may appear to be well priced and an attractive bargain but serious underlying issues can render such cars worthless. A car that has been written off after an accident may include faults like a twisted chassis. This could be invisible to the average buyer but could render the car unroadworthy, dangerous and worthless.

Clearly, it is vital to protect yourself and a few simple steps should remove the risk. Firstly, you should only buy from a reputable online dealer. Check out the reviews and do a few Google searches to make sure that the website is legitimate. Only proceed with a deal if you are absolutely sure that the site is genuine. Even though you are buying online, you also need to do all the usual checks when you take the car for a test drive. Make sure you are completely happy with the vehicle and that the paperwork is in order and matches the car. If in any doubt, walk away. Make sure to carry out a history check, if your online dealer doesn't offer it, and be certain of the warranty you are being offered. Lastly, buying by credit card offers you a good degree of fraud protection.

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