There is a growing car shipping scam on the internet which has been targeting sellers of cars, boats, motorbikes and other single high value items, even horses!
Car Transport Scam: The hook
Fraudsters copy aspects of reputable transport sites and are advising potential victims that they would buy their vehicle and ship it via their approved shippers, pointing the victim to this so called shipping site which they had published themselves.
Once the seller is "hooked" the fraudster then sends a cheque to the seller for the cost of the vehicle and, very kindly, includes in this payment the costs for shipping the vehicle.
Car Shipping Scam: The Con
Say the car is being sold for £ 4000.00 and the shipping costs are £1000.00, you, the seller, get a nice little cheque for £5000.00 which you duly bank. The bank may even advise you that the funds are in your account, cleared and safe.
Car Shipping Scam: The Sting
Within a few days you will be asked to send a slice of this money to the shipping agent in order to pay for the shipping costs of £1000.00. You are requested to send this money by Western Union or Moneygram which you do as you have been paid. This transfer is untraceable and cashed immediately. Meanwhile your bank tells you 10 days later that the original cheque has bounced and promptly takes the money out of your account.
You have been conned for £1000 or dollars, yen, euros whatever, this scam is worldwide. Never send money by western union, legitimate companies have bank accounts. Bank accounts are traceable.
Latest Scam Warning: Criminal gangs target car buyers through online car traders and auction sites.
Beware of individuals or websites offering to sell you a car below market price. These scammers advertise great deals on car trading websites and will ask you to send money before they ship your car. They will tell you the car is with their shipping agent and point you to a website which claims to securely hold your cash while they ship the car to you. They will even direct you to what looks like a reputable car shipping website or money escrow site, but one they have simply copied from the web and changed the contact numbers to their partners in crime.
Copying a website is a very simple cut and paste job and some of these criminal websites can look very, very convincing. However, they are simply copies of genuine websites with the contact details changed. Phone numbers listed are to untraceable mobiles and emails sent to you via bulk email accounts. If an email comes simply from an email account or an internet service provider be very suspicious.
Genuine companies will email you through their website, example: firstname.lastname@example.org is good, email@example.com is a con. Always check your email headers by looking at the properties of the email sender. Tip: simply right click any email address, look at properties and you can usually see exactly where the email has come from.
This is now big business and easy money for fraudsters. It has also been the subject of a BBC investigation.
Don't get caught! Be cautious of overcomplicated transactions involving shipping agents, business partners, middle men and so on, all designed to leave you seriously out of pocket, and the crooks with your cash.
As with all online transactions please check the credentials of who are you are dealing with. If it sounds to good to be true, then it normally is. Please also be aware that anyone can just copy and paste a website, change a few contact details and they are in business. Always check out the website URL and contact the real site owners if you are suspicious.
If you receive an email from someone check that the email is coming from a reputable website. If it is coming from just an email account and not a genuine company be very, very suspicious.
If you get that itchy feeling in the back of your neck and say Hmmmm. Then walk away.