Thinking of buying a vehicle online? You are looking for that next awesome deal that you can get and saving money with buying your next vehicle. Purchasing a vehicle online can bring you into serious trouble, and a BIG whole in your pocket.
In this day and age, the internet can be a very dangerous place. Criminals have expanded their activities from robbing banks at gunpoint etc to defrauding unsuspecting individuals on the internet. One of these methods, is by selling second hand or even sometimes new vehicles online. How is the crime committed?
- Advertising a vehicle that does not exist
- Advertising a stolen or cloned vehicle online
Advertising Vehicle That Does Not Exist
It happens more often than you think that criminals advertise vehicles online, via web pages for vehicles that do not exist. They then sell the vehicle, and walk away with your money, without you ever seeing or getting a car, and you are suffering a huge financial loss. It is not just cars that people are defrauded with online in this manner, but it can be anything from cameras to books as well.
How do the criminals do it? They create fake advertisements on these websites which usually look very convincing. The pictures of the vehicles that are posted are usually of some car for sale at a dealership or pictures they have taken from other advertisements on the internet. In some cases these criminals actually clone and advertisement and just replace the contact number and details with theirs.
The following are common things seen with this kind of online fraud as well:
- They will have lots of excuses if you contact them asking if you can see the vehicle.
- The advertisements are usually for an "urgent" sale.
- The person will demand the full amount or a sizable deposit before entering into contract agreements or before they will "deliver" the vehicle.
- In some cases they will supply you with an address of where you can collect the vehicle. This address is fake and when you get there they and the vehicle are not there.
Now you may ask, but how do you protect yourself from being defrauded in this manner? Well, the answer is simple. The easiest is just to deal with reputable car dealerships where you can view the vehicle and do the transaction there. However, there are many legitimate advertisements for second hand vehicles on the internet. The reason? Cutting out the middle man and you can get the vehicle cheaper, as their is no commission or markup from the dealership in play, and the seller can increase the amount he gets for the vehicle as well.
So how do you know your are dealing with someone legitimate? Well, you don't. But there are things you can do to minimize your risk of being defrauded.
- Ask for the vehicle information like registration papers, license number etc.
- Look at the rating of the seller on the website. In most cases, the criminals will be new users on these platforms with fake credentials, and will not have previous sales where they are rated by members of the community. Only deal with sellers on the websites that have a favorable rating.
- Insist that you want to inspect the vehicle in person, and that if this is not possible, keep searching and skip this advertisement.
- Do a clearance check on the vehicle and confirm that the person you are dealing with are the registered owner of the vehicle.
- Never agree to pay the full purchase amount of the vehicle upfront.
- If something does not feel right, or the deal seems to good to be true, it usually is. Skip the advertisement and carry on searching.
Advertising a Stolen or Cloned Vehicle Online
Another trick loved by criminals, and a good method for them to get rid of stolen vehicles and convert it to cash is by advertising the stolen or cloned vehicle online. You end up then in "good faith" buying a stolen vehicle, being in possession of a stolen vehicle, and losing a chunk of money in the process.
So how do you prevent yourself from falling victim of this type of crime? Fairly simple actually. You can do the following:
- Ask to view the vehicle and ask for a copy of the registration papers.
- Confirm that the VIN number on the vehicle and that on the registration papers match.
- Confirm that the vehicle license disk number and vehicle license plate number match.
- Confirm that the engine number on the registration papers and the vehicle match.
- Go to the police station and request a clearance on the vehicle. Supply them with the VIN number, Engine number and vehicle registration number. If the vehicle is reported as stolen or is a cloned vehicle, it should be picked up.
- Next, go to the vehicle licensing department, and supply them with the same information to check the vehicle on the system for you.
- The two points above are important, as there have been instances where the SAPS and Natis systems are out of sync.
- Confirm with the licensing department that the person selling the vehicle is the registered owner of the vehicle.
- Never pay in cash. Insist on EFT.
- Always request a certified copy of the persons Identity Document, as well as residential address, contact details etc.
If you did all the above, and the vehicle did not come up as stolen or sought on any of the above checks, then you should be in the clear and the vehicle you want to purchase is not stolen or cloned.
Once again, if the deal is too good to be true, or you get a bad feeling about it, rather walk away and keep searching.
If at any point you find that the vehicle is reported as stolen or sought either by SAPS or on Natis, report it to your nearest police station immediately and let the authorities deal with the situation in the correct manner!!
Always REMEMBER!! Knowingly buying or selling a stolen vehicle is a criminal offence!!