BUYER beware is the message from a leading used car data company which claims that the sheer volume of online second-hand car sales scams is "off the chart this summer".
Mycarcheck.com has warned of the marked increase in online used vehicle scams and advises potential buyers to "walk away" if the deal looks too good to be true.
The company warns that sophisticated con artists, often operating in organised criminal gangs, can create scam adverts very quickly and on an industrial scale, even setting up whole fake dealer websites.
At first glance, they look realistic with wording from genuine adverts cut and pasted and with added features like make and model searches included to make them appear more convincing.
According to mycarcheck.com, there are three tell-tale signs of a con which potential buyers should look out for and question:
Is the vehicle being offered for substantially less than other similar models?
Does the advertised phone number ring out or go to voicemail, prompting you to ‘email the seller’?
Are you then offered a vehicle that is abroad but can be ‘shipped to you’?
Mark Bailey, head of CDL Vehicle Information Systems, which owns mycarcheck.com, says: "The sheer volume of online scams is off the chart this summer, with seasonal favourites like convertibles, camper vans and motor homes being targeted.
"The staff at our Glasgow call centre speak to used car buyers every day, often when they're about to transfer money, so we have our finger very much on the pulse when it comes to the latest scams.
"From early this year we saw a significant rise in fraudulent online adverts, but from May onwards it really ramped up, not only for the usual cars, vans and bikes, but for plant and agricultural vehicles - every sector you can think of."
And Bailey advises: "If you encounter any of the above, and certainly all three in order, it should serve as a red flag that you are being lined up. The best advice remains: If in doubt, walk away."
With information from the police, DVLA, insurers and finance houses, mycarcheck.com holds comprehensive data on every vehicle on UK roads - things that buyers should be aware of before making an offer.