Safety and Security Centre
Vehicle Export Scam
A number of users have contacted us regarding e-mail scams they have received while advertising on our website. Whilst these scams have only affected a small minority of our customers it is a recognised scam that has the potential to leave sellers thousands of pounds out of pocket.
The scam, officially known as the West African advance fee or 419 fraud involves a buyer from abroad (we’ve had examples from Holland, USA, Nigeria) posing as an international dealer who wants to buy a vehicle. They claim that they are owed money by a client in the UK who will send a bankers draft for the full price of the vehicle, plus a few extra thousand to cover the cost of the shipping without viewing the vehicle or proof of condition and usually put their lack of phone number down to a temporary fault.
The emails are often full of spelling mistakes and poor grammar to persuade the victim that the fraudster is an uneducated person who wouldn’t have the ability to defraud them. The fraudsters also try to make themselves seem genuine by stating that the vehicle is a present for their wife, son, daughter etc and use this as reason for the urgency involved in the purchase. Many of the emails are signed off with a comment like ‘regards to you and your family’ or ‘may the peace of lord be with you.’
The seller is then asked to pay the draft into their bank and wire the excess money to the buyer to pay for the shipping costs. The bank draft itself may seem genuine but be wary; we’ve had reports of bank drafts being accepted which have watermarks and bank branch stamps on them but are revealed as forgeries after being paid into the bank.
After the money has been sent, the seller hears nothing more from the ‘buyer’. Normally, the bank will contact the seller after a few days to tell them that the bankers draft was stolen, forged or that it has bounced so check with your bank how long it will take for a bankers draft to be given value. (Ask the bank if you can withdraw funds safely on the cheque rather than if it's cleared as there is a difference between a cheque being cleared and funds in the account). . If the bankers draft is forged the money will be stripped from the sellers account, leaving them thousands of pounds out of pocket. Customers have informed us that neither their banks nor insurance companies could help to mitigate their losses. The met suggests that if you receive an email which you believe could relate to a scam, cause the sender some inconvenience by forwarding a copy of the email to the Internet Service Provider from where the email originated.
If you receive a letter through the post, throw it away – the sender has not targeted you personally.
Be extra vigilant when selling a vehicle – particularly if there seems to be anything out of the ordinary.
Remember; never release the vehicle until you have confirmed with your bank that the bankers draft has been given value. With this scam it can be days before the seller is told that the cheque is fake or stolen, so be wary.
- Trading Standards - http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/
- Metropolitan Police Fraud Alert - www.met.police.uk/fraudalert
- Report an unscrupulous dealer - email@example.com
- Report a scammer - firstname.lastname@example.org
Please do not email the Metropolitan Police unless you have details of the fraudsters bank details, address or telephone numbers. Also bear in mind that the Metropolitan Police covers the Greater London area. For help across the rest of the UK, please contact your local force.
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