For many of us, eBay is a happy hunting ground for bargains... most of the time. A few of us might just admit to buying more than we actually need but what the hell. Some time ago, I remember reading that 'every new technology spawns a new opportunity for criminals to exploit'. Should you be in the market for a 'new' (used) car, please be careful!
In the heat of the moment, when we see some unmissable bargain, do yell 'Stop the bus!' at yourself and take a step back. Anything that looks TOO good to be true almost certainly is just that. With the advent of eBay classifieds, a highly organised criminal minority have seen the opportunity to strike. Heres how the scam works.
An ad is placed for a mouthwateringly good deal on a late used car. Typically, the vendor (often with zero or very low feedback) will be offering a late, very low mileage £12k car for half price. The description of the car (if any) will be scant and this will stand out because there will be far more about terms and conditions of sale than what is actually being sold. This in itself should strike potential buyers as being odd - ask yourself how someone with such low (or zero) feedback would have learned all this!
Sanity goes out of the window (for a second) as the scene at the pub unfolds in your mind's eye "Nice car! Bet that cost a few quid" and then the smug grin 'It was bought for far less than that!'
STOP! The car doesn't exist - if you ran the reg through HPI or similar it would come up CLEAN because the car in the photo isn't actually for sale! When a potential buyer (victim!) asks for some more information, the seller responds that the car is cheap because the car isn't in the UK, as they bought it here while they were working here but now they've gone back home to mainland Europe, a right hand drive car is no good to them.
The scam is the buyer gets you to send payment in advance, which will cover delivery and it all hinges on the fact that it is an 'unmissable bargain'. It all relies on the fact that every single one of us dreams of finding a fabulous bargain and the excitement of the heat of the moment may lead us to drop our guard. What happens is the seller hooks 2 or three people and sells the car to each (classifieds are not auctions...) netting £10-15k in the process. Only there is no car and in time that delivery from Europe would normally take, the fraudster is gone (along with your cash).
It always pays to see a car before you bid on it. Of course, that isn't always possible but do please worry about cars which appear to have been photographed in the UK but later turn out to be 'abroad'. ALWAYS see proof of ownership for a vehicle before parting with ANY cash. If you have to buy a vehicle from abroad, use a reputable agent who will be able to a) check the vehicle matches its description (b) the vendor has clear title and is able to sell it legally (c) can advise on shipping/insurance/customs/registration/type approval.
Be extra wary if the vendor cannot provide the V5 registration document or is coy about passing on the name and address of the previous keeper or the serial number of the document. Vehicle id checks are nothing less than essential and can be carried out at very modest cost via eBay or through HPi/Experian or via the AA/RAC.
The bottom line is this - you cannot be too careful or ask too many questions. Most vendors will provide all the info you need without question but worry about any who do not. There is always another deal and the golden rule is... if in doubt, walk!