Be­wareof car scam­mers

Auto web­sites are fight­ing con artists, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On Road -

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.

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