When deciding to buy a passenger car, you should be very careful throughout the entire process. It’s not only important to choose the right brad and the model of the car and paying attention to its equipment, but also a range of details which allow avoiding the issue of car buying scams. What’s worth knowing? More information below.

Used car buying scams – what actually are they?

Passenger car buying scams are intentional, misleading and deceitful actions aimed at obtaining money or assets from a natural person. Nowadays, these actions are, unfortunately, quite common and might come in many forms. Modern technologies are most commonly used for this – the Internet, e-mail, or phones. Scammers are people who sell cars who not only use various scamming ways, but, primarily, deceive others on different levels. If you decide to buy a car on the secondary market, you should be extremely careful.

What should concern you during a car inspection?

Before deciding to buy a car, you should inspect it very thoroughly. This task is hindered, as the purchase process is usually emotional. On the one hand, the future owner is happy that they are going to have a new vehicle soon, and on the other hand, they have a lot of doubts whether the decision was right. Therefore, thorough inspection of many elements is of key importance, and these include not only the aesthetic qualities of the car.

If you want to make sure that you’re making the right decision, you should take a close look at the exterior and the interior of the car, check the engine compartment and, of course, the car equipment. The inspection is not complete without a test drive.

Most common car buying scams

Used cars are very popular in the European countries. If you want to check how many offers there are available, you simply need to visit one of the popular sales portals. Many offers, which at first sight seem great, might actually be traps. Sellers not only want to get rid of a defective car, but they also want to earn more, and that’s why they practice scam. Below, we present the most popular practices.

Clocking the odometer

One of the common practices is illegal clocking the odometer in cars with high mileage. This procedure seemingly allows increasing the value of the car – it’s estimated that 10.000 km less on the odometer already gives a better chance for a bigger profit. Interestingly – this procedure is popular in many countries. It might seem that this could be done only in the older cars cases. Nothing further from truth – scammers can also very well clock the digital meters in the modern cars. For this purpose, they use computers and special software which allows concealing any bigger apparent traces.

In order to make sure that the car odometer shows the real mileage, it’s good to compare the actual reading with the one provided during the inspection, and also compare the condition of the car with the number of the driven kilometers. It’s estimated that a European driver annually drives 11.300 km on average. If you notice any excessive wear of the interior of the car, or perhaps you notice in an older car brand new pedals, gear shift or flawless upholstery, then it might a sign that the seller is trying to conceal something.

Car previously used as e.g. a TAXI

It’s quite difficult to discover whether a car which the buyer is interested in was previously used e.g. a taxi, or was an element in car rental fleet. Such cars, due to their purpose, have much higher mileage, hence all their wear parts are exploited faster, and in effect they are in worse condition. Clocking the odometer in such case is quite common, therefore drivers should pay attention to the technical condition of the car and the inspection of the car before buying it.

Car low price

Low price of a car, much lower than the market value, should be a red flag for a potential buyer. When the price is too low, it heavily indicates that the seller is trying to hide something. The following procedure can be encountered: offers of unique copies of cars are published on sale portals for incredibly low prices, and after contacting the seller it turns out that their technical condition is completely different, or the car itself is currently kept abroad and in order to have it delivered, the buyer would have to pay an advance payment.

Concealed damage

Research conducted in the European countries shows confirms that 30% of the sold cars, for which reports on their technical condition have been generated, are damaged to a various extent. Some damage is successfully concealed by the seller. This is why conducting a thorough inspection is crucial to estimate the condition of the car. One of the elements to which you should pay attention is the spacing between the car panels – they can be either small or big, but most importantly – they should be even. If there is any unevenness, it could indicate that the car has been repaired, and the process of restoring its previous technical condition was unsuccessful.

Auto theft

A good-quality car, available for a good, not too low and not high price seems to be a a perfect offer. Unfortunately, it often turns out that the buyer purchases this kind of a car, and after a few days or when registering the car it turns it that it had been stolen! Unfortunately, it’s difficult to discover whether a car had been stolen on your own. Criminals usually steal a car and swap its license plates, car identification number and the V5C document with another car. The buyer purchases a car believing that it’s real.

In such case, you should necessarily ask the seller for the VIN number and the vehicle registration number – on the basis of these data you can check the car, for example in the autoDNA system. By purchasing a report on a vehicle, you can uncover a lot of information which can help you make the decision on the purchase, i.a. information whether the car has ever been stolen.

Switched VIN number

In terms of switching the VIN number, it’s quite popular to swap it or clone it. In the case of changing the VIN, the seller decides to change the vehicle identification number in order to conceal information about it or the fact that the car is stolen. Cloning the VIN is a similar procedure – scammers copy a number of a legally owned vehicle and use it for their own car – in most cases the vehicle licensing agencies do not check the VIN duplicates.

Faulty airbags

In many countries of the EU the airbags are an extremely valued element of the car equipment, therefore they are often stolen, just like other elements of the car equipment. Thieves steal not only airbags. It also happens that the unfair auto mechanics dismantle airbags during a car repair and replace them with paper bags or other materials, so that the owner of the car doesn’t know about the conducted procedure. In effect, the new owner might buy a car which doesn’t completely ensure their safety on the road.

Online car buying scams

There are many online car buying scams. All are conducted in order to achieve financial advantage. Among common scams there are not only conducting the car sale in a way which conceals the real car mileage or other elements which indicate the value of the car. Online scams are also quite common, which is a serious threat.

One of the most popular scams is the one connected with a virtual vehicle. The buyer tries to purchase a car which is not intended for sale or it in fact doesn’t exist. In such case the sale advertisement is faked or a car is cloned.

What should you do when you discover a car buying scam?

If you suspect that the properties of a car on sale are factually incorrect, and after checking online vehicle history you’re certain that you might fall victim to a scam – resigning from the purchase is not the only thing you should do. Many potential buyers, following a misconception, move on from such offers without any reaction. Depending on the country in which an attempt at such crime takes place, the case should be reported to an appropriate department – it’s good to know that for such action the wrongdoer might be arrested.

How not to get scammed?

If you want to safely buy a car and not get scammed, you need to appropriately approach the topic of checking the sale offer. First of all, you need to remember to thoroughly check the car and test it at a trusted auto mechanic. Additionally, you need to look out for car sales offers on popular Internet services, such as eBay or Craigslist – neither of these portals guarantees that the sellers are honest. It’s also important to check the vehicle history – there are many websites which for a fee generate vehicle history reports which allow catch out any irregularities. autoDNA is one of them – the Vehicle History Report allows obtaining information about cars from various European countries. Another good solution is to visit your local DMV, where you can check whether there’s any lien on the vehicle. It’s important, as if there are any, and the buyer was not informed about it, then an unfavourable disposal of property takes place.

There are many ways to verify a car sales offer. You should keep a cool head and approach any car sale offer with common sense. Then, the risk of coming across a scammer is substantially decreased.