As long as cars have been available for sale privately, there has been a minority that has sought to dupe, scam or otherwise gazump unwitting buyers out of their hard-earned cash. The rise of selling cars and car parts over the internet has been a blessing for the classic car enthusiast. Rare finds that may’ve taken months to stumble upon at scrapyards can now be found almost instantly via the Internet.
What’s more, before the rise of online car dealing you simply had to take what the seller had to say about the car with a pinch of salt and hope that it really was in the condition they’d described. Now though, with the ability to upload numerous digital photos, you can go into any negotiation with a much more informed view of the car you’re looking to buy. Equally though, because it is so much easier for the seller to be as anonymous as they choose throughout any transaction, there’s always the risk that rather than selling you a sound, as-described vehicle, they may be trying to scam you.
UK car clubs have for many years been acutely aware of the risks its members face when buying cars online. However, last month both the MG Car Club and the Standard Motor Club felt it necessary to issue a warning to their members concerning online car scams appearing on the popular internet auction website eBay.
The MGCC outlines a situation where a very nice blue MGA roadster is listed at an attractive price, but unavailable for viewing as the seller claims he’s working away. The listing goes on to say that the seller has an arrangement with eBay whereby it will send details of a holding bank where the payment can be held until the car is delivered. It would then clear the funds to the seller who claims they would not be able to touch the money until the buyer gave the all clear to eBay. However, eBay was quick to point out that it does not offer or ever has offered this sort of service.
Similarly, the SMC highlights a well-known scam whereby the seller claims to be ‘working on an oil rig’ and again requests that the money be forwarded to an account with the promise that the car will be delivered upon their return to shore. But as the Standard Motor Club’s webmaster Phil Homer quite rightly points out, although by the time members will have taken note of the Club’s warning the rogue listing will have disappeared, this doesn’t mean the perpetrator won’t attempt such a ploy again.
According to HPI, within the next three years one in every five car sales will take place online. Every week 500,000 car parts and accessories and 10,000 cars are sold through eBay. eBay Motors is the UK’s leading online automotive marketplace but it is by no means the only outlet for purchasing cars online – at any given time, literally hundreds of thousands of vehicles are just a single click of the mouse away.
With all this in mind, consumer services manager for HPI Nicola Johnson is concerned that in her company’s recent survey a worryingly large number of those questioned (42 per cent) did not think that buying online made them more vulnerable to scams than when buying face to face.
She said: “The internet can offer a wealth of deals and choice; however its relative anonymity can offer rich pickings for criminals looking to turn a quick profit. Buyers need to remain aware of the dangers and be cautious when purchasing online.”
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
Beyond the advice included in the separate box from eBay itself, we would argue that car club forums are one of the greatest defences against scammers. Indeed, it is here that many club members will first learn of potential car scams and where knowledgeable club representatives can discuss the validity of the latest bargain to emerge online.
The Retro Rides forum (http://retrorides.proboards.com) has taken this a step further with threads created specifically to collate the scams of individual convicted and serial scammers. An example of this ‘naming and shaming’ approach can be found in Retro Rides’ “Scammer ruins it for everyone” thread where its members have managed to keep track of one Liverpool-based scammer and all of his online aliases – the aim of doing so is purely to keep enthusiasts safe.
So, the next time you come across a listing that claims to be too good to be true, make as many checks as you can yourself and if you’re still unsure, it’s worth seeing what your fellow enthusiasts make of your latest find.