Used car sellers warned about ‘bogus buyers’

Vehicle owners who are selling their used car privately through online marketplaces or local newspapers are being warned criminals may be targeting them in a method known as ‘bogus buyers’.

Instances of the vehicle theft method are on the up, particularly in the South East.

The bogus buyer car theft method targets ‘considerate’ sellers who gather everything related to a textbook sale – vehicle, keys, documentation and V5C vehicle logbook – in one place.

Rather than being sophisticated, the bogus buyer method simply sees the thief grab all this, then jump into the driver’s seat and speed off in the car.

Worryingly, owners who resist are often threatened with violence.

"The bogus buyer method is as old as the hills and unfortunately is on the rise again," says Philip Swift, technical director at motor insurance loss adjustor CMA, which has issued the warning.

"It starts with deception, taking advantage of peoples’ good nature, and ends with a brazen theft."

What happens during bogus buyer theft? Swift said criminals often act normally, even haggling with the used car owner. Once a small price reduction is agreed, the seller’s spirits are up and their guard is down

The perpetrator will then causally ask for a test drive, constantly looking to manoeuvre a situation where there is nobody near the car and they have the key.

“They only need a moment and they’re gone,” says Swift

And with the UK stolen vehicle recovery rate currently at an all-time low of 23%, down from 80% in 2006, the chances of owners ever seeing their car again are low.

What’s more, while it’s likely car insurance will still pay out in such circumstances, Swift warns payouts may well be delayed due to any ongoing police investigations.

How can motorists protect themselves against bogus buyers? Swift says people should be wary if someone has got a lift and their friend is no longer still there. "They will not want you to see that car as it links to them."

He advises having a friend or family member alongside you and never release keys or paperwork until you can see the payment in your account.

"Also consider the wisdom of offering a test drive when selling privately under any circumstances, whether the buyer is bogus or not: are they insured to drive your car? Do they even have a licence?"

If someone does crash during a test drive, it could cost you, not only in terms of breaching your own car insurance policy, but possibly breaking the law and risking getting six points on your licence…

Ask HJ

I have seen a cheap car on Facebook Marketplace - is it a scam?

I saw a Vauxhall Adam for sale on Facebook Marketplace it was a 2019 plate and price was £2700 Turns out I had to get in touch with a delivery company to get it delivered and when I asked them why the price was low yhey said they bought it from an auction. I asked if it had been in any accidents and they said it had been professionally examined and it was perfect. On top of the car price they said all I had to do do was pay the delivery cost which was about £126.00. What is your opinion please?
There are a lot of upfront payment scams around at the moment and this sounds a lot like one of them - we would steer very clear of this car if you are being asked to contact the delivery company first. Unless you can actually see and view the car (or are buying from a well-known reputable source) then do not part with any cash. This car is well below half the average retail price for such a model and if it appears too good to be true, it normally is.
Answered by Craig Cheetham
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