How to protect yourself from fraud

How to protect yourself from fraud

Ten Top Tips for Avoiding Fraud

1. Never share personal details over the phone

Never share card details or personal information, including passwords, by the phone or email.

If you're selling a vehicle and need to give the buyer your account details, you can share your account number and sort code safely. You should never give away your long card number, expiry date or security code.

2. Always view a vehicle before buying

If possible, you should view a vehicle before purchasing. If this isn't possible, consider asking someone you know and trust to view it for you, or arranging for a vehicle specialist to view the vehicle on your behalf. Alternatively, you could ask for a walkaround of the car via video call.

Be wary of a seller preventing a viewing from being arranged for any reason, or if they seem hesitant for you to view a vehicle. If you would like proof that the seller has the vehicle in their possession, consider asking for specific photos that haven't already been provided. In these photos, check the background and time of day to look for consistency. What time of year was the picture taken? What country was the picture taken in? Road markings, road signs, traffic direction and foliage should give you an indication.

3. Be aware of unexpected contact

Be wary of any unexpected calls, emails and text messages. Even if the reason they give for contacting you seems reasonable, always double check who it is you're speaking to. No one should ever ask you to share personal information via a phone call, email or text message.

You may get a call or email from someone pretending to be from a company you know and trust to get you to hand over important information. If you suspect this is the case, always reach out to the company via their official channels.

4. Be aware of false urgency

Don't allow yourself to feel pressured for example, if you are told there is lots of interest in a vehicle and plenty of potential buyers. Trust your instinct, if you feel rushed or uneasy at any point you are well within your rights to slow down a deal or stop a transaction. There should be no rush.

5. Carry out a vehicle history check

If the vehicle is based in the UK and you know the registration, you can do a DVLA vehicle check.

This allows you to find out:

  • Vehicle tax - the current rate and when it expires
  • SORN status
  • When its MOT expires
  • The date it was first registered
  • Last log book (V5C) issue date
  • Year of manufacture
  • Type approval category
  • Weight
  • Engine size
  • Fuel type
  • Emissions - CO2, real driving emissions level and European status
  • Export status

You can also check the MOT history up to 2005 of any vehicle in the UK. Find out:

  • if it passed or failed
  • the mileage recorded when it was tested
  • where each test was done
  • what parts failed at each test, and if any parts had minor problems
  • when its next MOT is due

6. Check documentation

Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) and engine number, usually stamped into the chassis of the vehicle. Every car has a VIN, and you should make sure these match the details on the log book.

What are VIN numbers?

Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) and engine number, usually stamped into the chassis of the vehicle. Every car has a VIN, and you should make sure these match the details on the log book.

7. Check who you are speaking to

Be wary of email addresses that are easy to get or that are close to an official email address with added characters or different spelling. A typical address might be a name which is followed by several numbers for example: [email protected]

If you're called, check the number by doing a Google search. If they're claiming to be from a company or bank, you can hang up and call them back via the company or bank's published number.

Even if the seller uses a legitimate home address and name that can be verified, they could still belong to an innocent third party. If you have any doubts, ask for more verification.

8. Be wary of a bargain

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always do your research and look for vehicles of the same make, model, age and mileage to see if the price is comparative. If the price is too low, the seller may not be genuine, may not have the vehicle in their possession, or the vehicle may be stolen.

9. Avoid cash

Always be suspicious of cheques, bankers drafts or large amounts of cash. They can be fraudulent. If a buyer insists on paying by cash, it's a good idea to meet them in their bank branch where the withdrawal can be authorised in front of you, or meet them at your bank branch so the money can be counted and verified before being paid into your account.

It's better to use a third-party escrow service or direct bank transfer for payments. There is normally a delay when using direct bank transfer but a genuine buyer or seller shouldn't be put off by this.

10. You can never be too careful

Never be worried about asking questions, a legitimate buyer or seller won't have a problem with this. If you feel uneasy, stop what you are doing and get help.

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