An online car scam is circulating Victoria and it has already had multiple people trying to buy a second-hand car that does not exist. Classified scams trick online shoppers on classified websites into thinking they are dealing with a legitimate contact but it is actually a scammer.
The public has been alerted by Victoria Police after 8 people fell for the scam, losing thousands of dollars after ‘buying’ the car advertised on a popular website. Someone claiming to be a member of the armed forces was advertising the car.
You might think that scams disproportionately affect older generations. However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) statistics show that ages between 25 and 55 are being hit the hardest.
To help you safeguard against potential disaster (and any internet weirdos) here is a list of telltale red flags to avoid when embarking on a journey into the world of online used car sales. Please be mindful of the car selling websites you visit.
1. If the prices are surprisingly low, it can be a scam
The saying goes that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is – and nowhere is this more pertinent than in the case of used car prices.
Look at similar cars online to gauge a rough pricing guide and compare any potential purchases against this.
If the vehicle seems suspiciously affordable, especially when you consider the year it was made and the kilometres it’s alleged to have covered, you should arrange an in-person inspection. (Indeed, you should always inspect in person, where possible.)
2. An unusually low odometer reading
Tampering with the odometer or lying about kilometres travelled are both common practices employed by scammers called odometer wind-back. If the car’s year doesn’t align with the number of kilometres it’s claimed to have travelled, you have reason to be suspicious.
Modern odometers which display the number of kilometres a car has travelled are digital, making them even easier to wind-back. Whatever type of odometer is fitted, check that the wear and tear on the car fit in with the stated odometer reading. If the pedal rubbers and steering wheel are worn smooth, the car isn’t likely to have low km’s one. Ask for the car’s service history to see the odometer readings and make sure it goes up steadily and doesn’t suddenly drop.
Thankfully, they can be easily fact-checked by getting the car independently checked in a pre-purchase car inspection.
3. People who won’t do phone calls are possibly scammers
Legitimate sellers or buyers should have no issue talking on the phone, while scammers might try to restrict communication solely to text messages or emails. They can also pretend to be unavailable (e.g. they are travelling or have moved overseas) and insists on payment prior to arranging for delivery of the goods. When they request that you pay through international money transfers, cheques or direct bank transfers, you should be suspicious.
Sometimes the simplest way to ascertain whether someone is a scammer is to call their listed number with your own number blocked. If it goes through to someone who isn’t the seller, it’s safe to say you have cause for concern.
4. Vehicle re-birthing
Another widespread scam is known as re-birthing. It works very simply and it’s very easy to get caught out by it. Vehicle re-birthing works by thieves stealing a car or using a written-off vehicle, stripping out all identifying information and giving it the identity of a legitimate vehicle. Although the car you’re looking at is stolen, you don’t know its real identity because you’re checking the identity of a different vehicle.
In the case of using a written-off vehicle, used car sellers almost always sell a used car “as is,” meaning that the buyer takes on all responsibility for the vehicle after purchase. Once the sale is completed, the car and its problems will stick with the buyers.
Written-off cars that have been re-birthed can also be a safety risk and endanger lives. For example, in a vehicle that’s been flooded or rebuilt after a crash, the airbags may not work or the brakes may be faulty.
5. Buying an unseen car
You already know that this is fraught with danger but it’s worth understanding why. Big purchases require due diligence, and if you’re unprepared to go and investigate the car you could be in for trouble. After initially arranging an amicable deal, the seller could quickly change tacts and take the money and run—should they feel like it.
You should only pay money for a car that you can verify is registered to the seller and have ensured that it is what it claims to be. We understand that sometimes rare cars in remote locations can only be acquired this way but if you get caught out and end up being scammed, you really have little recourse available.
6. Meeting in a weird place
Sellers that insist on meeting in a place away from their home could be hiding their address for a reason. It’s a customary given that when buying or selling something privately you can expect to visit the seller’s house. It makes it easier for them, so if they suggest meeting elsewhere you should proceed with caution.
The car might be stolen. The seller mightn’t want you coming back to seek recourse at their address when you realise something is wrong with the car. Or worst case scenario—your personal safety is at risk if they plain and simply try and rob you.
7. Car selling scammers want a quick sale
Oftentimes private car sellers are keen to move on their car as quickly as possible, but if you suspect a seller is rushing the process then you have to ask why.
This might be because the seller wants you to overlook a dodgy aspect of their car or mention that they have to travel overseas and need to sell in a hurry. This can lead to a scam in which the seller can ask for the money and say they’ll organise the car to be delivered, yet it never shows up.
8. Non-disclosure of finance owed
If you buy a car that has an outstanding loan attached to it (an encumbrance), and the seller did not disclose this to you at the time of purchase, then you could be at risk of losing the car. In general, car finance uses the car as security for the repayment of the loan, so if the repayments on the loan are not paid the car may be repossessed.
The prevalence of such scams is why you need to get a vehicle history report from a reputable source for any used car you decide to purchase.
Have a professional inspector like German Precision to do a thorough pre-purchase car inspection to ensure that your dream car is operating properly and not a scam.
If you are looking for a professional pre-purchase car inspector in Melbourne, do not hesitate to contact German Precision or Prepurchase Check today!
sources: caradvice.com.au, gold1043.com.au, scamwatch.gov.au, whichcar.com.au