Over the years I have talked to so many people who have been ripped off when buying a car off the internet. In fact I am still amazed at how many shady, unscrupulous people there are out there that are only too willing to take your hard earned money. It’s a sad state of affairs but it is true that not everyone that smiles at us is our friend! These scams go far and wide and 2 scams are never the same which makes it even more difficult to spot. I can only talk about one such scam that I have heard about and neither are pleasant if it happens to you as both take your money and give you nothing in return.
The Vehicle Shipping Scam
You search the internet looking to purchase a vehicle in another country, you check the market place for the going rate. The seller is selling his vehicle for just below the market value and you can’t believe what a good bargain it sounds. You speak to the seller by email or via a mobile number given on the advert and ask all the necessary questions such as; what does it run like? are there any scratches or dents? are there any warning lights showing on the dashboard? is there a spare wheel? and so on. If the advert is not showing the vehicle registration number you can even ask for this so that you can do further checks. You research the vehicle registration number on one of the ‘check my vehicle’ websites that you find on either Google or Yahoo and are happy to find that the vehicle is showing that it has not been stolen nor has it been written off due to some accident.
After a few more emails or phone calls, the seller puts your mind at ease and is also very friendly and helpful – they even tell you that they will organise for your vehicle to be shipped to you because ‘they do this all the time and have never had any issues’…. Well this is where the scam hits you with full force, you trust this person and believe everything that they tell you and let’s be honest why wouldn’t you? You like to believe that everyone is honest just like you, so you take the plunge and send money by bank transfer to their bank account. Most overseas transactions take approximately 4 days to clear in to the recipients bank, so you send them proof of payment by email. The seller remains friendly and is always contactable right throughout the transaction, always answering your questions on time. You start to feel confident that you have made the right choice, the seller will even tell you the shipping companies name, the ships name that your car will be shipped on and some will even go as far as sending you a copy of the shipping note that they will use to deliver your vehicle to the port.
You still don’t smell a rat until the day your money has left your account and has cleared in to their account. It is then that you cannot get hold of them and their phone is permanently switched off. They never reply to your emails and there is no other way of contacting them apart from the shipping company that they said that they would be using. You search the internet for the shipping companies name, and yes 9 out of 10 times the company exists so you ring them and ask them when your car that you have just purchased is going to be shipped. The shipping company tell you that they have no knowledge of your vehicle and that they have no bookings made for a vehicle with that registration number. You disbelieve the shipping company but I can assure you from personal experience that the company will have absolutely no knowledge of your vehicle and it was in fact the seller that made it up to make them sound more legitimate whilst they where in the process of scamming you. By this point the realisation will hit that you have just lost all your money and have no car to show for it. You have just been well and truly scammed!
The worst point of this scam and any other like it is the fact that the police will not get involved, they insist that this is a civil matter and not a legal matter. You have nowhere to turn to for help. How can you bring a court case against anyone that cannot be traced? I guarantee they will have a fake email address and a pay as you go mobile phone.
My advice to you all is, if you can’t physically see the vehicle and test drive it then do not just buy it over the internet. If you are in another country and really want a particular make and model then go to a reputable garage (you can research their credentials on the internet) as a good company will have good reviews about them. Do not ever trust just anyone on the internet, especially a private seller on ebay, auto trader or gumtree for example. You will not have any recourse to recoup any lost money if they do turn out to be liars and fakes.
First Base Freight do offer a service that will help and assist anyone looking to purchase a vehicle in the UK. We will carry out multiple checks, visit the vehicle if it is local and will purchase and ship it for you. We have many happy customers that know we are honest and will deliver above their expectations. For further information on First Base Freight buying a vehicle for you, please contact us on 01495 320540.