Micron Associates on how to avoid fraudsters when buying a car online
If buying through eBay any emails from it will be in your eBay messages folder. Be aware that phishing scams are rife about eBay, along with a host of others including utility providers and banks. Some such scam messages which have been reported on and sent to thousands of internet users say that the intended victim’s eBay account has been suspended. To revive it the recipient is instructed to click into a link which may then display high ticket items supposedly for sale at improbably low prices. Such scams are nothing to do with eBay.
Also to be treated with deep suspicion are any claims about eBay’s buyer protection for the purchaser of a vehicle or any mention of ‘vehicle protection’. eBay’s ‘buyer protection’ generally only applies to something that can be posted and is being paid for in the required way. It does not cover vehicles in the UK. Also regard with healthy scepticism an eBay seller who says their PayPal account isn’t working as an excuse for the payment to be made in a less secure way.
If you are uneasy about an email purporting to come from PayPal send it to email@example.com. Log into your own PayPal account and check any messages. PayPal’s customer service line is on 0800 3587911. Often such fraudulent communications style PayPal’s name wrongly or are otherwise of low quality – although if it is right that won’t be proof the email is genuine.
PayPal adds that one of the ways in which you will know the email is not from PayPal is when it uses a generic greeting like “Dear user’ or ‘Hello, PayPal member.” It tells me it always addresses customers by their first and last name or the business name in the PayPal account.
For details of PayPal’s protection policies see www.paypal.co.uk , click on help, and then find the PayPal ‘safety advice’ tab on the top. However remember there is no PayPal seller or buyer protection for cars or other vehicles including horseboxes.
Avoid money transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram when sending money in such circumstances to people you do not know.
Think Consumer Credit Act
Paying with a credit card, if a viable option, can make the bank jointly and severally liable for purchases worth between £100 and £30,000 where there has been misrepresentation or breach of contract. Remember that you only need to pay a proportion with the card for the bank to be caught up with the transaction. Check with your card provider. Be aware that, given the nature of such a transaction being unusual, after all most people don't regularly buy vehicles, there are likely to be extra security checks for those paying in this way.
Don't be lured into presuming a website is based in the UK
Just because a website address ends .co.uk or .com doesn’t mean it is in the UK. If buying or selling online check there is a bona fide address shown, try the phone number and look for feedback on the seller via a search engine.
View any high ticket item first
View before paying. Ideally meet at the seller’s home or business premises.
Well-informed scrutiny could be crucial
At the extreme end, one acquaintance recalls buying a car that went for two miles and then stopped. On opening the bonnet she found sawdust in the gearbox. Another trick she has reported on is putting a certain type of oil in the engine to cushion the sound of a vehicle which would normally sound like something in a fairground. With the possibility of such goings-on, if cars and so on are not your area of expertise, consider getting someone in the know to look at any vehicle you are thinking of buying from anywhere other than a reputable dealership. Possibly get an independent condition report. Have a test drive.