Duncan contacted us following a vehicle purchase scam. When the vehicle he'd bought didn’t arrive, Duncan realised his payment had actually been made to a fraudster and the invoice he’d received wasn’t genuine. He was worried he’d been the victim of a scam so reported the matter to his bank. Unhappy with the bank's response, he contacted us to complain.
Duncan was looking to buy a new car. He’d been searching online for some time before coming across what appeared to be the perfect vehicle – it had a low mileage, was in great condition and the price was a little lower than he’d seen for similar types of car advertised elsewhere. It was advertised privately on a popular social media platform.
Owing to the global pandemic and some of the restrictions in place at that time, the seller said Duncan couldn’t view the car in person. Instead, the seller would arrange for the car to be delivered. Duncan wouldn’t need to pay the seller directly, but instead should send the payment to a well-known company, which would hold his money until Duncan was satisfied with the purchase. This reassured Duncan.
Online searches that Duncan carried out showed that the vehicle didn’t have any outstanding finance and had a valid MOT.
He received an invoice which appeared to come from a genuine company. It repeated the information he’d been told – the money would be held until he was happy.
Satisfied with the checks he’d carried out, Duncan made a payment of £6,000 to the account details listed on the invoice.
When the vehicle didn’t arrive as expected, Duncan realised his payment had actually been made to a fraudster and the invoice he’d received wasn’t genuine. He was worried he’d been the victim of a scam so reported the matter to his bank.
The bank considered the case under the Contingent Reimbursement Model ‘CRM’ Code. It said Duncan hadn’t done enough checks on the recipient before making the purchase and ought to have viewed the vehicle in person. It accepted, however, it hadn’t provided him with a scam warning before he made the payment – so it refunded 50% of his loss.
What we said
We thought that, although the price the vehicle was advertised at was a little lower than the market value, it wasn’t too good to be true. We agreed Duncan ought to have been cautious about a car he hadn’t seen in person, but he did take steps to confirm the legitimacy of the sale and we understood why he found the email – which appeared to come from the genuine company – and the apparent protection that gave to be convincing. It is also true, particularly since the pandemic, that online car sales are increasingly common.
Overall, in the particular circumstances of this case, we felt Duncan did have a reasonable basis for believing the purchase to be legitimate, so we asked the bank to refund the rest of his money.
Some ways to help protect yourself against a vehicle purchase scam
- Always try to view a vehicle in person before buying it. You should be extremely wary indeed if the seller claims that it isn’t possible to view the vehicle – this is often the sign of a scam.
- Confirming the existence of the vehicle by checking its MOT history won’t reveal whether the seller actually owns or has possession of it. Viewing the car and the logbook in person provides more protection.
- If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Treat any claim that your money will be held independently – even through well known companies and ‘escrow’ accounts (a type of holding account) or by a business arranging delivery – with caution. This is a very common technique employed by scammers. Always independently contact the business apparently providing an escrow account or delivery service.
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