How to prevent frauds

Recently, the number of cases of fraud, when buying / selling a car via the Internet, has increased. In order to help you protect yourself better from expensive disappointments, we describe in the following the typical tricks of the fraud trade.

Different fraud tricks are currently used, but, in principle, they all have one thing in common: Money is required in advance, often in connection with transfers via Western Union. If you hear key words such as “proof of liquidity”, “money transfer”, “trust service“, „cheques for too high a sum“, your alarm bells should start ringing.

As a matter of principle, the following is important: Do not, as a buyer, enter into transactions for which the seller demands dubious payments, for example to an account abroad. Do not, as a seller, hand over the car, until you have received the full amount of the purchase price. And: Watch out that you are not referred to “rip-off” telephone numbers (in Germany: 0190 etc.).

In the following, the individual fraud tricks are described in detail:

Fraud by means of money transfer

You have to be extremely careful, if the seller calls for a proof of liquidity. In several cases, prospective buyers were instructed to pay per money transfer via Western Union Financial or MoneyGram, in order to prove that they could actually pay the purchase price for the car agreed upon. The online car seller AutoScout24 urgently recommends not to do so, since the lacking safety measures enable the confidence tricksters to unauthorisedly access the paid-in sum - in all cases the money was withdrawn by a “person unknown” and has been lost since then.

The money is passed on via alleged trust services. The car is offered for a particularly advantageous price. The alleged seller answers to the email of the prospective buyer and lures the seller with the alleged trust service that was, according to the seller, offered by AutoScout24. AutoScout24 DOES NOT HAVE A TRUST SERVICE. In addition to this, the trickster gives contact details of this trust service, including an email address that is similar to that of AutoScout24 (e.g.: info@autoscout24-trades.com or info@autoscoutt.com). The trickster assures the prospective buyer that he will deliver the car only few days after the receipt of the paying-in form. With the pay-in slip, the trickster can, however, withdraw the money, i. e. the money is gone and so will be the trickster.

Cheque fraud

Bidders, too, run the risk of being damaged when selling their used car for example due to uncovered cheques, since, only after several weeks, banks can confirm, if the cheque was covered or not. In one concrete case, the prospective buyer asked for cancelling the deal that was made. Hereupon, the seller transferred the purchase price, just to be informed by his bank, a short time later, that the initial cheque was not covered.

Take care when you receive an email from an alleged car dealer (for the most part, from abroad), who maintains that he has already found a prospective buyer for the car. He will then, for different reasons, offer a cheque for too high a sum, to be sent back to the seller. The difference to the purchase price shall then be reimbursed by the seller via Western Union. The cheque bounces after a certain period of time and the paid-in difference is gone.

“Rip-off” via telephone

By means of chargeable telephone numbers, alleged sellers can quickly relieve prospective buyers of umpteen euros. Watch out: If the alleged seller gives, in the contact details or in the free text field of the display, a telephone number beginning with the area code 0137, 0180, 0190 or 0900, the call can become a very expensive one. It has to be observed that „rip-off“-numbers are likely to be „hidden“. One example: the following fictive number 200 300 with the chargeable area code 0137 does not catch the eye so easily when written in the following way: 013 720 030.

Simple down payment fraud

The alleged seller convinces the prospective buyer by way of more or less long email contacts or on the telephone to pay a first instalment, in order to thus reserve the car. Upon receipt of the payment, the trickster is no longer available and the money is gone forever.

Cash is safest

For this reason, AutoScout24 advises: Fingers off of cheques, bank or money transfers via unsafe bidders. To buy / sell a car in exchange for cash is surer. However, you have to watch out here, too: The prospective buyer should never bring money to the first date of inspection. Only when the car is handed over, the payment is effected.

Basic tips and tricks

In order to avoid that the sale / purchase of used cares becomes a nightmare and in order to prevent that the joy at the new used car fades off too quickly, there are a few tips and rules the buyer should observe:

  • Take your time to compare prices and powers this is easiest on the internet.
  • Do not inspect the vehicle without an expert accompanying you.
  • Do not bring money to the first date of inspection. Payment only after handing-over of the car. Fingers off, when the seller calls for a proof of liquidity.
  • Check car title and registration document. Take care of number of previous owners. More than two in the first five or more than three in seven years should make you doubt.
  • Check papers of the seller thoroughly: Are you really negotiating with the owner of the car you want to buy? Compare the car documents with the identity card of the seller.
  • Check next dates for TÜV (inspection by the German safety standards authority) und AU (exhaust emission test), the service book, inspection reports and repair bills, check mileage.
  • Check car for accidental damages and rust (errors in the finish, welded joints, mudguards, wheel casing, boot, doors, feet area). For the underbody, a stick equipped with a bike mirror is recommendable.
  • Check tyres (profile depth, unilateral abrasion), engine compartment, check transmission and radiator for leakages, test electric installations (light, sliding roof, electric windows).
  • Make a test run and monitor above all the steering mechanism, the clutch, the transmission, the true running of the engine and the brakes. In order to get hold of a second opinion, let the person accompanying you drive a part of the way. If you are in doubt, ask yourself if a professional inspection for used cars is worthwhile, as carried out for example by automobile clubs, the TÜV or the Dekra organisation for about 80 euro.
  • Read purchase contract thoroughly (sample contract could serve as an orientation). All features assured by the seller (no accidents, „top condition“) must be fixed in writing. Because only then any deficiencies can lead to reductions of the purchase price. Oral assurances are not of any value

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