Press release

Police forces and Get Safe Online launch campaign to combat fraudulent sales of vehicles online

Checklist for car buyers and sellers launched in partnership with the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group (VSTAG).

Police forces and Get Safe Online have launched a new campaign today to help people buy and sell vehicles safely online. The campaign promotes two new check lists created by VSTAG, of which Get Safe Online is a member – one for buyers and one for sellers – to stop them getting caught out by fraudsters in an auto fraud scam.

Auto fraud scams happen when unfortunate buyers get tricked into paying deposits or transportation fees for cars, vans or other vehicles that don’t exist, or buying a vehicle without checking its history, only to find out that it’s been written off by a previous owner.

Sellers can get tricked into handing over the keys or documents to a fraudulent buyer based on trust, without checking that there are cleared funds in their account.

Tony Neate, Chief Executive of Get Safe Online said: “Millions of transactions take place online every day of which only a small fraction are fraudulent but who wants to get caught out by a scammer when you’re dealing with a high value sale such as buying or selling a car? Our checklists created with VSTAG has been designed to help people buy and sell vehicles online safely so the experience from beginning to end is positive. We urge anyone who is thinking of buying or selling online to take the time to read our easy to follow checklist to make sure you don’t become a victim of auto fraud.”

VSTAG Buyers Checklists

  • Paying a deposit: If a deposit is requested or agreed, don’t pay more than you are willing to lose and confirm with the seller that they will refund the deposit if you don’t purchase the vehicle
  • View the vehicle before paying the full amount: We recommend researching the seller as well as their vehicle. Most fraudulent sellers will try to persuade you to transfer money before you’ve even laid eyes on the vehicle. Often, they will insist on communicating only via email rather than on the phone
  • Always check that the price of the vehicle is in line with the market value: If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is: If the vehicle seems ‘too good to be true’, it can be a sign of fraud. Research other similar vehicles or perform a free valuation on Auto Trader. If the vehicle is below market value, beware. Ask the seller questions about its valuation, there may be underlying reasons if the vehicle is under-priced
  • Take the vehicle for a test drive: Be sure to thoroughly inspect any vehicle you are looking to purchase, and take it for a test drive. This should always be done from the seller’s premises or their home; never let the person meet you halfway
  • Always carry out a vehicle history check:?This will tell you if the vehicle is recorded as stolen, written off, scrapped, or is subject to outstanding finance
  • Payment advice Never send money for a vehicle you haven’t seen. Don’t carry large amounts of cash

VSTAG Sellers Checklists

  • Be prepared: Have all the relevant paperwork together, such as the V5C, service history and MOT certificate, for a potential buyer to review. Buyers may wish to check details such as the address on the V5C and the mileage in the most recent MOT certificate. Never let the buyer photograph your documents
  • Beware of scammers: Always meet the buyer. Request?the potential buyer’s contact details, such as their phone number and full home address. Proof of identity such as driving licence is ideal. This should give you further reassurances, and?a legitimate buyer should be happy to provide this information
  • Test drive advice: Make sure you ask the buyer to bring their driving licence and proof of insurance if they want to test drive the vehicle. Check their level of insurance to test drive, this should prevent you being liable for damages
  • Stay on home ground: Always arrange to meet a buyer at your home, never meet halfway or at their premises
  • Never allow a buyer to test drive the vehicle alone: Never leave a potential buyer alone with the vehicle, nor give them the keys. If you have a keyless fob, keep hold of it at all times, even on a test drive. However, never jeopardise your personal safety and if you feel uncomfortable at any time, walk away
  • Payment: Never release the vehicle until you have confirmation that the payment to you is cleared funds. If you accept a cheque or bankers draft for payment, be aware it can take days for these funds to clear 

About Get Safe Online

Get Safe Online is the UK’s leading source of information and advice on online safety and security, for the public and small businesses. It is a not-for-profit, public/private sector partnership backed by a number

of government departments, law enforcement agencies and leading organisations in internet security, banking and retail.

For more information and impartial advice on protecting yourself, your family, your business, your computer and mobile devices while online visit www.getsafeonline.org

About VSTAG

VSTAG, the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group, helps protect both buyers and sellers of pre-owned vehicles from fraud during the online vehicle transaction process. Forged from a strong partnership of the UK’s leading online car sales companies and the police, VSTAG members share information of known and suspected fraudulent advertisements – working together to reduce online vehicle crime.

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