Gardai warn motorists to be on alert over car-buying scam
GARDAI have issued a nationwide alert after a big increase in the number of cars being purchased by fraudsters with fake bank drafts and then sold on for cash.
Gardai say they have already investigating 24 cases this year compared with a total of 21 for all of 2013.
Over the past three years, gardai have recovered 78 out of the 79 cars involved in the scam but are concerned about the increase in the number of incidents involving innocent motorists.
Criminals are targeting car owners, who advertise their vehicles for sale on classified websites. They contact the seller and say they are interested in viewing and potentially purchasing the vehicle on offer.
Gardai say the criminals make arrangements over the phone to buy the vehicle, using a bank draft, without personally viewing it.
The deal is set up for an evening, usually on a Friday, the draft is handed over to the seller and the driver takes possession of the car and vehicle registration certificate.
The seller is told the buyer is in the motor trade and given an RF105 (change of ownership to motor dealer form) with details of a fictitious garage.
Officers say the fraudsters re-advertise the vehicle on the internet at a price below the market value, to attract attention. The car is then sold, sometimes within hours, to an innocent buyer.
When the seller eventually discovers the bank draft is a fake, the vehicle is reported as stolen.
Gardai say all of the recovered cars have been returned to their owners but that unsuspecting buyers are left out of pocket – one lost €40,000 last year as a result of the scam.
Officers have been working closely with the organisers of several classified websites, including DoneDeal.ie, Adverts.ie, Carzone.ie and Auto Trader, to trace the suspects, warn their customers and remove dodgy advertisements.
Several searches have been carried out and suspects arrested.
Last month, a motorist, who had advertised his vehicle for sale on DoneDeal, was punched in the face when he met two men who claimed they were interested in buying it.
During a meeting at a filling station, one of the men began checking the vehicle for defects and asked if he could take it for a test drive.
The owner refused but offered to go with him while the other followed behind in another car.
After travelling a few miles, the driver stopped by the side of the road and punched the owner, who managed to grab the keys and make his escape through fields while the two men sped away in their own car.
Gardai later seized €7,000 in cash and four mobile phones.