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How to escape a virtual car scam

2013-10-08 10:36

THE CAR EXISTS, WOULD I LIE TO YOU? You would never fork over thousands of rands to a salesman based on the “promise” that the car exists? So why would you do this online? Image: AP

Many car buyers believe that online payment systems, such as Google Wallet, will protect them against fraudsters. Sadly this is not always the case as virtual car scams are reportedly on the rise. Find out how you can prevent being conned!

LONDON, England - Used-car buyers mistakenly believe that online payment systems such as Google Wallet will protect them from fraud. Not so, says a leading UK vehicle information expert which reports a growing number of buyers have been duped by the virtual car-seller scam.

HPI warns that any money transferred through to a dodgy seller through an online payment system is not protected, even if it’s revealed that the vehicle does not exist. Used-car buyers should never buy a vehicle online without “seeing it and meeting the seller”, no matter the payment method.


The virtual car scam has been conning online buyers for years, buyers tempted by a seller offering a vehicle at a great price. The seller will then usually claim to be based far from the buyer, providing a reason why the vehicle cannot be viewed.

The seller will claim that the vehicle is already being shipped to a location close to the buyer and that the low price is due to the need for a quick sale. Except, there is no car and the cash the buyer pays will be long gone when they realise they've been conned.

HPI operations director Phil Peace said: “Online payment systems offer many protections designed to prevent fraud. This is leading some people to believe that if they use siuch a system they will be protected if they are caught in a scam.


"These systems offer similar security measures offered by banks, designed to prevent your money being taken without your knowledge or consent. The problem is, if a buyer transfers money willingly, there is little that can be done about it. Online transactions are so fast and easy that by the time people realise they have been duped the seller is long gone, leaving the buyer with no car and no money.”

Anyone who buys a vehicle with a hidden history stands to lose the vehicle and the money they paid for it. If a vehicle turns out to be stolen, it could be returned to the rightful owner and it’s a similar case for cars with outstanding finance, which actually belong to the lender.

Peace said: “Buyers would never walk up to a person selling a car on the street and give them thousands on the promise of a car, so why would they do this online? Electronic payments offer a false sense of security."

Read more on:    new models  |  fraud  |  scams

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