May 28, 2009

OFT targets car sales scammers

You advertise your car for sale e.g for £4,000. Someone calls out of the blue saying they have a “guaranteed buyer” for your car at £5,000: all you have to do is send £99 to the firm, which will then put you in contact with the purchaser. But there is no buyer and your cash disappears into a swindler’s bank account.

Welcome to the “vehicle matching scam”, which costs car, motorcycle, and mobility chair sellers at least £3m a year.

“High pressure selling alongside cold calling makes this a very successful scam, often leaving the consumer with very little chance of obtaining redress,” Peter Stratton of the Trading Standards Institute said.

Last year more than 1,600 private sellers of second-hand cars complained to Consumer Direct about the practice, but the Office of Fair Trading estimates the true number of victims is much higher.

From today the OFT, the police, Trading Standards and the car industry will collaborate to drive the scammers out. The OFT will co-ordinate the sharing of intelligence between different enforcement agencies to target action against traders engaged in unfair commercial practices such as matching scams.

The OFT is also working with online and print motoring publications that are members of the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group, including Autotrader, Exchange & Mart, eBay, Pistonheads and, to put in place clear and prominent warnings about these scams for consumers. The UK European Consumer Centre, European Consumer Centre, Dublin, and Which? are also supporting the campaign.

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