Cloned Cars: How to Spot an eBay Scam

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Written by Michael Foote, founder of Quote Goat, has over 13 years experience working in the finance, insurance and currency sectors.

A recent BBC investigation has revealed that a number of people in the Greater Manchester area have been scammed by eBay fraudsters and led to buy cloned cars from the site.

As of the time of writing, three sellers had been banned from the site according to AOL. It has been reported that these individuals were passing off stolen and cloned cars as legitimate private sells by swapping the details of the vehicle in question with legitimate vehicles.

How is a Car ‘Cloned’?

In order to clone a car, con artists will give a stolen car the licence plate and documentation for another vehicle of the same make and model. To cover their tracks, they will also replace the chassis number on the car to make sure everything matches.

Sadly, for experienced criminals, this is incredibly easy to do, and an industry has been formed off the back of it. Buyers are usually asked to pay cash to ensure that there’s no paper trail and this means that the criminals can rarely be caught.

How Can I Avoid Buying a Cloned Car?

Firstly, it’s important to state that all three men involved in this scam have had their eBay accounts suspended and there is no evidence that this is a widespread practice on the site. eBay remains a safe place to buy used cars as long as you make the appropriate checks on listings.

When you go to view the vehicle in question, make sure that all of the VIN/chassis numbers match each other. When you’re checking this, also thoroughly inspect the area surrounding the number, ensuring that it doesn’t look like it has been tampered with in any way.

After this, check that all of this information matches the V5C/ logbook serial number and issue date. If you’re unsure whether this all matches, or you believe that your car may have a secret history, then conduct a HPI check.

Even if you’re confident that the vehicle is genuine and as described, you should also never pay cash for it as it makes the seller impossible to trace. This includes paying part in cash or offering a down payment of any kind. If you’re buying from sits such as eBay, then you have much more safety paying through the PayPal service which should be offered as standard. Plus, if the seller is genuine, they should have no problems providing you with a form of identification, such as a passport or a driving licence. If the vehicle they’re selling is theirs, this information should match what’s currently on the V5C.

Remember, if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.


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