The theft of classic cars has been on the rise, driven by rising values and a lucrative trade in parts and spares but we have been having more and more conversations with customers about buying scams over the last 12 months.
“Phantom” classic car scams work by offering cars at prices that are too good to be true and getting buyers to pay a deposit or the full price to secure the car before someone else buys it. The cars often exist, but do not actually belong to the bogus seller and these types of scam are an ongoing problem for classified sites such as Auto Trader and Pistonheads.
We have spoken to a number of customers recently who have either fallen foul of these scams or become aware of the fraud at the last minute and they are becoming increasingly sophisticated. A classic will be offered at a very tempting price and a deposit requested by the seller to secure it as “they have had a lot of calls”. In the past communication was generally conducted by email but more recently scammers are talking to their victims on the phone and can be extremely convincing. Needless to say, once the monies have been received communication stops altogether and the money is lost.
Although some buyers would prefer to sell a cherished car to a good home for a relative bargain, the moral of the story is if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. We have noticed that often these cars are advertised away from the usual classic car classified websites so they can look like a real find and often the images used are taken from auction catalogues.
Please take extra care when you are buying or selling – there is plenty of advice available online on how to avoid scams and what to do if you become a victim – Pistonheads and the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group both have lots of good information.
Our top tips to avoid classic car scammers.
Don’t hand over any money until you have seen the car and have a genuine V5 registration document in your hand.
Get a vehicle identity check to make sure it isn’t stolen, written off or on finance – http://www.hpicheck.com
Google and research the car for further details – a registration number often produces results.
Always pick the car up yourself – don’t accept an offer or request to deliver.