A County Down couple became the latest victims of car buying scam, losing £4,850 in the process after thinking they were getting a great deal on a used Ford Kuga.
The couple were tricked by a person who claimed to be selling their car privately having returned to Sweden after long term working in Northern Ireland and no longer wishing to own a right hand drive car.
Trading Standards Service (TSS) urged potential car buyers to exercise extreme caution, adding it was not the first time people have been caught out by this particular scam which claims to be selling cars from a fake vehicle storage depot in Belfast.
Typically advertisements appear in newspapers and car sale websites throughout the UK for vehicles at exceptionally keen prices.
The seller engages in very convincing dialogue with prospective customers in the UK solely by text and email, telling them the right hand drive car is no longer needed as they have moved back to Sweden from Northern Ireland.
Promises are made of a safe payment method and delivery through a third party logistics company.
Tradising Standards said the scam was “all very plausible” and they could understand what lead the County Down couple to pay £4,850 by bank transfer for a 2010 Ford Kuga.
In early autumn Trading Standards heard from three consumers who had lost some £13,000 between them to the same fraudulent operation.
The correspondence by the seller in all these cases is virtually identical except for details of the cars advertised.
In each case a link was sent to the consumers that opened up a specially created website for the fake logistics company.
“This highlights how scammers are targeting unsuspecting people by using increasingly sophisticated and manipulative tactics,” said Trading Standards Service, who were recently able to advise a consumer from England before they nearly parted with their money in a similar scam.
The consumer had become increasingly suspicious of the seller and their refusal to allow them to inspect the car because it was in a cargo shipping container.
TSS discovered that the vehicle storage depot in south Belfast, where it was supposedly stored, did not exist.
Furthermore examination showed the website the consumer had been directed to was fake, as was the company represented on it.
To help push the private sale the seller had even emailed the consumer with copies of a driving licence, bank statement, a utility bill and company details - all of which were false.
Bill Malloy, Trading Standards Service, said: “Follow the old adage. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be rushed into sending off money to someone you do not know, however plausible they might sound and even where an approach is personalised.”
Consumers who feel that they are a victim of a scam or suspect a scam should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or alternatively log onto the Consumerline website at http://www.consumerline.org