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Spotting Car Related Scams

By: Kevin Dowling BA (IMC) - Updated: 15 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
Car Scams Key Swap Steal Scammers

Car-related scams can prove to be a waste of both your time and your money. Most scams take place when cars are either being bought or sold.

Car fraudsters are able to think up any number of clever ways of encouraging people to part with either their money or their vehicle. Here are some of the most popular techniques that the scammers regularly use.

‘The Key Swap’

Many people have been the victim of a car scam when trying to sell their car, one of the most common methods is the ‘key swap’. The fraudsters pose as would-be car buyers and often contact people who are selling their car via publications such as Autotrader.

The fraudster tries to gain the trust of the seller, and takes the car on a test drive before handing back the keys and telling the seller that they have decided they are not interested in buying the car.

Unbeknown to the seller, the fraudster has swapped the seller’s car key for a fake key or a different key relating to the same model of similar car. They will return later in the day or at night and simply drive the car away.

The best way to avoid this scam is to be appropriately suspicious of any potential buyer.

For example, you might become suspicious if the potential buyer asks who else will be viewing the car or insists on being the last person to see the car that day. They may be trying to ensure that their deception will not be uncovered by the seller discovering the fake key doesn’t work before they return back for the car.

Never let a would-be buyer go out on a test drive alone and never leave them in possession of your keys. Think about whether you can bring someone with you on the test drive and if you swap seats make sure that you do not leave the keys in the ignition while you do so.

‘The Sale and Steal Back’

Earlier this year, reports surfaced in the media of a gang of ‘car ringers’, which were making fortunes illegally by stealing, selling and even restealing hundreds of cars

The gang would break into homes with the sole intention of stealing keys to the cars owned by the residents. They would then change the licence plates of the vehicles, create forged document papers and sell the cars on to unsuspecting buyers, before in many instances repeating the process by stealing the car again from the new owner.

The best way to beat this scam is to be vigilant, by making sure that your car is difficult to steal and, if you are a potential buyer, make sure that the car you are purchasing matches up. This means checking that the V5C registration documents correspond correctly with the Vehicle Identity Number etched onto the engine.

Remember that if you purchase a stolen car you have very few rights. Your insurance will be invalid and the vehicle will be confiscated in order for it to be returned to its original owner.

Identity Fraud

Car scammers are always on the look out for any documentation they can use to pose as someone with a clean credit record and money available to them.

To make sure that your ID isn’t stolen and used by someone else, make sure that you shred important documents containing personal information. Anything containing your name, address and bank account number would be enough for someone interested in stealing your identity.

If you misplace your passport or your driving licence, make sure that you contact the relevant office as soon as possible so that they can cancel those you have lost and issue you with replacements.

Finally, you should remember to check your credit report regularly. This will reveal any recent applications for credit made in your name, and you can query any applications that you do not recognise.

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