Metro Bank is warning drivers to be watchful this September, following the launch of new number plates, which normally leads to purchase scams focusing on the sale, finance or leasing of vehicles.

Such scams typically involve ‘best deal’ offers appearing on sites such as eBay and Gumtree or on social media. However, the deals don’t actually exist – instead, criminals take images from actual sellers to convince the public that they have the vehicle in question.

A car driving past a tree

In other instances, websites can be cloned with only small changes, which can manipulate people into thinking they are buying from a legitimate website.

To help drivers stay safe, Metro Bank is offering the following advice to help to identify a scam: 

Clues to look out for before buying:

  • The price is too good to be true
  • The website has only launched recently
  • Being told the vehicle will be shipped to you and it can be returned if you’re unsatisfied with it.

Clues to look out for at the point of purchase:

  • Being put under pressure to make a quick decision
  • The seller asking for funds to be bank transferred only
  • Either a very low or no deposit option at all
  • Being offered leasing or financing without completing credit or affordability checks

Steps you can take to protect yourself from purchase scams:

  • Ask to see the vehicle in reality before you pay any money (including the deposit). If this isn’t possible due to logistical reasons, you can always request a video call 
  • Keep an eye out for any poor formatting or grammatical errors and changes within the advertisement and any correspondence
  • Ask for details such as the vehicle identification number (VIN) and check that it marries up with the V5 document
  • Do some research and see if there are any independent reviews about the seller or company before making a payment
  • Get the vehicle’s full history check through the government’s website.
  • Only pay through a secure online payment platform. 
  • If you’re buying second hand, suggest paying a small deposit and pay off the balance on collection.
  • Make sure the emails and contacts you get are from the genuine merchant.

Adam Speakman, head of fraud and investigations at Metro Bank, said: “After their homes, cars are most people’s biggest asset which is why these purchase scams are so distressing for the victims.  Investing in a car is a significant spend and thieves target these purchases because of the amounts of money involved”.

“We definitely see an uplift in this type of fraud around the issue of new car licence plates and advise anyone not buying a car from a reputable dealer during these periods to be extra cautious before purchasing.”

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