The ability to buy and sell, second-hand or a new car, online has made the nature of automobile transactions quicker than ever. This is beneficial as, if you are considering letting go of your car or searching for a fresh set of wheels, South Africans can utilize a variety of online platforms to make a deal happen. Some of us turn to household names like We Buy Cars or Autotrader while others look to Gumtree as an option that gives greater autonomy during the process of buying and selling cars. You can even use Facebook Marketplace to buy and sell cars. These are the perfect platforms for one-on-one transactions, however, they come with their own set of risks.
In this guide on what you need to know when you buy and sell cars, we share our insight on the typical techniques used by scammers and offer tips to avoid scams. Your safety and financial security are far more valuable than a vehicle, and Secura is here to assist.
The Most Common Strategies Used by Scammers
Before you buy or sell your vehicle, you must be aware of the most common strategies used by vehicle scammers. Some of these techniques are easy to spot while others can fly under the radar. Some scams are physically harmless but financially devastating and are typically completed over the phone or online. Other scams can be life-threatening and a potential front for hijacking such as car recall crime scams.
It is essential that you know of or remind yourself of the following scam tactics when you look to offload or buy a vehicle:
Scammers Selling Cars
- Price their vehicles substantially lower than the general asking price for the exact same vehicle make and model as seen on another seller’s profile
- Use the same photographs to advertise their ‘vehicles’ across multiple seller profiles
- Often refuse to meet in person and ask for upfront payments or 50% deposits before inviting buyers to view the vehicle
- May not have access to or proof of the vehicle history
- Refuse to let buyers test-drive the vehicle before purchasing
Scammers Buying Cars
- Send through cheques that bounce once sellers have already shipped their vehicles
- May approach car owners and promise to find trustworthy buyers for a small fee
- Often hide behind fake emails and profiles that contain insufficient information to prove their legitimacy
- Try to spin stories that they are required to pay additional costs associated with their financial service provider or insurance provider and seek compensation
How to Avoid Scams When You Buy and Sell Cars
Scammers are getting smarter every day and some are completely aware of consumer scepticism regarding the above-mentioned tactics. It can be difficult to put your trust in a stranger, and rightfully so, although the following tips should give you more confidence as you look for a potential buyer or seller.
Set Up a Virtual Meeting
You should always try to uncover as much as you possibly can about a buyer or seller before you confirm a deal. While social media privacy settings are extremely important, they make it difficult to find out more about the buyer or seller that you are communicating with. Instead, you should request a virtual meeting before making any decisions. Virtual meetings are extremely beneficial as seeing someone ‘face-to-face’ online can be a great way to gauge character and trustworthiness. Most scammers are difficult to contact and will refuse to meet ‘face-to-face’ via Google Meet or Microsoft Teams. This is a great first step to take before arranging an in-person meeting and does not replace it.
Confirm Vehicle Legitimacy
After confirming that the person buying or selling the car is, in fact, the person that they represent themselves as online, you should now confirm the legitimacy of the vehicle that is advertised. Ask the driver to share the vehicle’s VIN and begin your investigation. Using the seller’s provided VIN, you can use the following tool from Autotrader to look up the vehicle’s history. It is a small R99 to pay for complete confidence in the legitimacy of the vehicle’s existence.
Only Accept Cash
Whether you are buying or selling a car via platforms like Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, you should only pay with or accept cash. While cash payments can be tricky, in this day and age cheque payments are not worth the risk. It may take a little longer to finance a deal, however, the risks associated with a scammer’s cheques bouncing are far too great.
Always Do a Complete Test Drive
When buying a car, you must request a test drive before payment. This will let you meet the seller in person to confirm that they are who they say they are (and the same person from the virtual meeting). It also gives you an opportunity to do the relevant vehicle checks to ensure that the car is in the condition advertised. You can use the following handy checklist to confirm the car’s condition before you buy. Be sure to take your time as scammers will try to rush you into buying before checking completely. When selling a car and offering a test drive, ensure that you have a tracker for car installed in your vehicle so that you have additional peace of mind during the selling process.
Exchange the Money or Vehicle Safely
You should prepare to hand over your money for the vehicle or vice versa as safely as possible. Never invite a buyer to your home as this could be a front for a break-in. Instead, arrange to meet in a public place and carry a panic button app on you at all times. Should you ever feel threatened, tap your emergency button and you will receive an immediate response from an armed security company closest to your location.
Secura is Your Emergency Safety Support
Whether you are buying or selling cars, are travelling in your new vehicle around South Africa, or have a breakdown while you are on the road, Secura is readily available to keep you safe. Our network of armed response teams will happily join you at your location to facilitate a safe transaction, respond to your location if you alert us from anywhere in the country, and wait with you for protection while roadside assistance is on the way.
Let Secura take care of your safety while you take care of your car.