Bewareof car scammers
Auto websites are fighting con artists, writes Paul Gover
ONLINE shoppers have been warned about the potential traps involved in chasing cars that look too good to be true.
Complaints about online scams are rising all the time and one recently reported to Consumer Affairs Victoria is fairly typical.
A buyer bought a car online, paying for it using a money transfer service. But the car, said to be in Darwin and ready for shipping, never arrived . . .
The story is one of far too many that have led to a near-tripling of inquiries to consumer affairs in less than two years.
Most are straight-out online scams and appear through auction sites, car sales websites and classifieds.
Major sites including carsguide.com.au are mounting significant investigation and enforcement programs, and regularly report problems to consumer groups and the police, but battle to combat the problem because of the difficulty in tracing online advertisers.
Consumer Affairs Victoria says a scam vehicle is usually advertised online at far below its true market value to attract bargain hunters.
From there, the seller — often overseas, with a believable story — requests payment through a money transfer service such as Western Union. Once payment is received, they cut ties and disappear.
Consumer Affairs has a step-bystep guide to avoid scams. It says to always check the value of the car — through www. redbook. com. au or www.glassguide.com.au — and be wary of any car that looks ‘‘too good to be true’’.
It also advising using a government agency, such as VicRoads, that provides a free vehicle status check to see if a car is stolen or has money owing against it. From there, it says: Be wary of buying any vehicle you have not seen
Verify the vehicle’s location and details
Never send personal or financial details in an email
Never deal with a seller who wants to make a sale outside an online auction website, if you’re buying through a site, because you can lose any protections available from the site.
Anyone who has been the victim of a scam should report it through Consumer Affairs Victoria’s dob-in-ascam form at consumer.vic.gov.au
For more information on scams, and how to avoid them, go to www.scamwatch.gov.au
Safeguards: websites, including the one operated by carsGuide, are looking to limit the impact of online scammers.