Fraudulent paymentsWhen you’re selling a vehicle it’s important you know how to spot the signs of a fraudulent payment.

Remember:

• Never send money abroad
• Never pay a large deposit
• Don’t hand over your vehicle until you’re satisfied the funds are in your account – check with your bank that you can withdraw funds safely on the cheque
• Your bank will not honour fraudulent drafts or drafts that cannot be cleared through lack of funds
• Don’t be pressured into releasing your vehicle – a genuine buyer will not mind waiting until the draft has cleared

Forged bankers’ cheques

Sellers should be aware of the possibility of receiving a forged bankers’ draft.

Typical scenario:

• You receive a cheque from the buyer
• Your bank informs you the cheque was forged days later
• The buyer has already taken posession of the vehicle and you’re left without payment

Don’t release your vehicle until you have confirmation the cheque is genuine and has been paid by the buyer’s bank. Check with your bank to ensure the draft has been ‘given value’ rather than merely ‘cleared’.

Be particularly wary of buyers who view your vehicle after the banks have closed and produce a bank draft already made out for the full asking price.

Fake escrow services

An escrow service mediates between a buyer and seller:
• The buyer transfers the payment to the escrow service
• The buyer takes delivery of the goods
• The escrow service releases the payment to the seller

Fraudulent escrow services appear legitimate but are run by fake ‘sellers’.

The ‘seller’ places a fake advert with an unusually low price to grab the buyer’s attention. When the buyer enquires about the vehicle they’re sent a standard reply, promising to waiver the shipping costs and suggesting payment is made via a particular escrow service.

Signs it may be a fake escrow service includes false licence numbers, logos and copyright details, as well as a mobile phone number disguised as a foreign landline. After the money is sent, the buyer becomes impossible to contact and untraceable.

How to spot a legitimate escrow service:

• A legitimate escrow service will never ask you to wire the funds directly to another party
• Avoid sites which don’t have a padlock icon at the bottom of your screen and a ‘https://’ at the start of the website address – this means the site is not secure
• If you’re suspicious, type the company’s name into a search engine – a legitimate escrow service will have a number of results listed – a fake escrow site will have very few

Auto Trader will never recommend escrow, payment services or payment protection as a means to send or receive funds for a vehicle.

Taking payment
However you take payment, you should always take care.
•    Cash – ask for the cash to be handed to you in a bank, where the notes can be checked for forgeries and paid in immediately
•    Cheques – never let the buyer take your vehicle until the funds have appeared in your bank account as the cheque could be forged, cancelled or stolen
•    Bank drafts – contrary to common belief, they’re not as good as cash, so treat them as a personal cheque
•    Online bank transfers – one of the safest ways to pay as it avoids handling large amounts of cash and the problems associated with cheques

How Auto Trader can help: Useful contacts

What to do if you think you’re a victim:

If you think you’ve been targeted by a fraudster, contact Auto Trader immediately by emailing scam@autotrader.co.uk or calling 0845 071 0487.