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Hit the brakes! Common car scams to avoid

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Purchasing a new vehicle can be one of the most exciting things a person can do, it can bring a sense of financial achievement, convenience to your daily life and the ability to participate in drive-thrus!

However, your car buying experience can be tainted if you fall victim to a scam and create unexpected worry, chaos and financial loss. We’ve listed some common car scams to look out for so when it comes to helping you or a loved one purchase a vehicle you are vigilant.

Below are common scams adopted by fraudsters, as well as a few pointers to consider before purchasing a car:

  • Familiarise yourself with car scams – an obvious point, however educating you and your friends/family will bring awareness of scammers’ techniques
  • Check with the DVLA – You can check (for free) on the DVLA website the registration number, make and model of the car provided by the seller before purchasing it
  • Inspect the vehicle on HPI HPI is a vehicle history checking website
  • View the car in person – We recommend going to view the car that’s listed on the V5C logbook in person if you can. If it’s a scam you’ll know straight away before your money is lost
  • Don’t use cash – When making a big purchase, it’s best to use a traceable payment method, it’s harder to track cash

Ghost Brokers/Fake insurance

Ghost brokers will advertise fake car insurance but they can look like genuine insurance policies. Once the victim issues the funds to the ghost broker they will cancel and refund the money to themselves, leaving the victim completely unaware. Fraudsters who use this technique tend to target new, young or student drivers and offer ‘too good to be true’ discounts and insurance deals.

Ghost brokers usually advertise their fake insurance deals on social media, student or money saving forums and websites, and even on university notice boards. Ensure you check the details provided and if they don’t have a website and only use an email or mobile phone number for contact, avoid them at all costs.

To avoid becoming a victim to a ghost broker, check comparison websites or well-known and established brands. You can also check if the insurance broker is legitimate at the British Insurance Brokers’ Association.

‘DVLA’ scams

Fraudsters have increasingly been posing as the DVLA or They will send their selected victims emails or texts impersonating these official bodies, advising of outstanding payments or to claim a tax refund. The messages will usually include a link to follow that will ask for your banking details and further personal information.

Impersonators who send these phishing emails and fake texts have become very slick and sophisticated; at a glance, their emails can look genuine. However, to avoid falling victim to the fraudster, simply remember that the DVLA and do not communicate using this method, so ignore the request and delete the text or email.

Car Cloning

Car cloning is when the identity of a legally-registered vehicle is used to conceal the identity of a stolen or salvaged car. The scammer will choose a vehicle that looks similar to the ‘clone’. The stolen car is then used in a criminal activity, such as speeding, and the victim who is unaware will be issued the fines and offenses.

For eager buyers, it’s important to ensure a thorough background check is completed before purchasing a vehicle. You can check the vehicle’s history on websites like HPI, as we previously mentioned. This will let you know if the vehicle has been scrapped, stolen or has an insurance write off. You can also see if the VIN number and registration number match and are correct against the V5C logbook.

Virtual vehicle scams

A virtual vehicle scam is where an online advert will offer potential buyers vehicles with low prices and deals that are located outside of the UK and will offer to ship your new purchase to you.

The buyer will send the funds for the vehicle and any additional shipping costs to the details provided on the fake advert, but will never receive their vehicle.

To spot this scam, your suspicions should be raised if the seller doesn’t allow you to see the vehicle, for example via a video call, or they insist on communication outside the proper platforms of trading. Stop and do not entertain the scammer any further! Unless you know the seller or have seen the vehicle and completed the appropriate background checks, do not purchase a vehicle overseas.

If you think you have been subject to a car scam you can report the crime to Action Fraud.

For more information on financing a new vehicle, visit our Motor Finance webpage.

Paragon Bank PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England number 05390593. Registered office 51 Homer Road, Solihull, West Midlands B91 3QJ. Paragon Bank PLC is registered on the Financial Services Register under the firm reference number 604551