News : Latest eBay scam alert…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Craig Cheetham

AROnline’s Editor doesn’t cop for an eBay scam – but talk amongst the trade suggests there’s a rather unpleasant trend going on right now – and it could affect you…

 

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If you’re currently the owner of a smart, low-mileage classic Austin, Jaguar or Rover and are thinking of selling it, you need to be on your guard. There’s a scam going round at present that’s designed to prey on the vulnerable, and as bullying is quite frankly abhorrent behaviour, here at AROnline we want to make you aware of it.

We’ve first hand experience, too, as it happened to me… The difference is, I thought it was a one-off at the time. However, since talking to some friends in the trade, it seems that’s not necessarily the case, and it’s quite possibly the same group of individuals that are perpetrating it…

Historically, stealing cars to sell on has usually been associated with higher-value models – but it now appears to be going on with lower-value cars, too, and in a way that, while immoral, is just about legal – providing, of course, that you don’t classify preying on vulnerable, old or less streetwise people as ‘crime’. Yes, it’s fair to say I feel very strongly about this one…

Not the obvious candidate for a car crime scam, but where there's money to be made etc...
Not the obvious candidate for a car crime scam, but where there’s money to be made etc…

About six weeks ago, I sold one of my non BL-ARG classics via the world’s favourite online auction site. I know that eBay has its knockers, but my experiences have generally been okay – describe something honestly, be accommodating and reasonable, and the vast majority of folk are decent, friendly and commit to a deal. I’ve rehomed quite a few of my previous charges this way, and have met some proper car enthusiasts along the way, including one bloke who, via a car transaction, became a bloody good mate who I’ve traded wheels with on two occasions since…

This time, the car in question was a lovely old Volvo 240 Automatic saloon, which I’d picked up earlier this year as it was one of several humdrum, ordinary 1980s and ’90s cars that are on my bucket list. You’ll find no Ferraris or Lamborghinis there – indeed, the closest you’ll probably get is a Fiat Tipo Sedicivalvole – but, for anyone who grew up in the same era as me and was fixated by the cars your mates’ parents drove, you’ll probably understand…

Yes, it really is like driving a Chesterfield sofa...
Yes, it really is like driving a Chesterfield sofa…

I digress. The Volvo was almost mint, and had covered a mere 57,000 miles from new. With immaculate leather upholstery and a good service history, it was easily worth the £1,350 top bid when the auction closed, especially as these charming old Ovlovs have a cult following these days.

I waited for a day or so after the sale and, once the buyer hadn’t made contact, dropped him an email. He called back almost immediately, suggesting he’d come to collect the car at 8pm the following evening.

8pm came and went, as did 9pm and 10pm. Shortly after 10pm, on a wet, dark and windy evening, my doorbell rang and there, on my doorstep, was a tall, slim, bearded gentleman in a long coat, surrounded by three shorter, stockier types in bomber jackets. They had come for the Volvo, they said, but had decided it wasn’t worth what I was expecting them to pay for it. Indeed, it was – in their view – only worth £350.

This was uncanny, as the car was parked down the side of the house in the pitch black. Without even looking at it in any light, opening the doors or starting the engine, they were already trying to knock the price down by almost three quarters… What was worse, though, was the menacing presence of the buyer’s three henchmen, and the fact he was speaking in such a manner as to suggest I was obliged to sell him the car regardless.

When I politely told him to Foxtrot Oscar, my new friend got a bit tetchy, and suggested he’d wasted his time and journey (he had!) and that I should at least be decent enough to refund his petrol money back to Slough (a round trip of 180 miles) in his late model BMW 745i (not the obvious choice of car for someone buying an inexpensive Volvo!). I declined, and closed the door.

They then appeared to hang around outside the front of the house for a good 10 minutes, continuing to look shifty and menacing – to this day, I’m still not entirely sure why – but, in the end they left, and soon after they had I was relieved to check that my house, the Volvo and my wife’s Discovery didn’t appear to have been harmed, though the henchmen had politely extinguished their fag ends in my flowerbed.

I won't say I was glad to see the back of the 240, but it was a relief to know the second highest bidder was a proper human being...
I won’t say I was glad to see the back of the 240, but it was a relief to know the second highest bidder was a decent and proper human being…

The scary bit, though, is this: when I answered the door, they probably realised there and then that, on this occasion, their little scam wasn’t going to work. A 30-something broad-shouldered amateur rugby player (still sporting a nicely purple black eye from the previous Saturday’s fixture) probably doesn’t fit the usual demographic of an ageing, low-mileage Volvo 240 Automatic owner. Yet even I was unsettled by their presence. Had I been a frail 80-something gent who’d owned the Volvo from new and was ready to hang up his driving gloves, their menacing presence and forthright language could well have been enough to frighten me into handing over the keys and the V5 there and then – and that makes me angry. Very angry indeed, because I despise such behaviour and detest all bullies. Of course, by the time I reported the ‘buyer’ to eBay, his eBay ID had already disappeared along, no doubt, with the fake ID he’d used to create it.

Slightly more concerning, though, is that I’m not convinced this was a one-off. A couple of weeks later, I was having a chinwag with a long-term friend of mine, who buys and sells cars from home as a sideline to his regular business, and who I know has an eye for superb, reasonably priced, low-mileage, on-the-cusp classics. I know this from personal experience, having previously purchased three cars from him, plus another one for a family member.

The same week as I’d ‘sold’ my Volvo, he’d put up on eBay a 1993 Honda Accord 2.0i, with just 22,000 miles on the clock and one elderly owner from new. It ‘went’ for just over a grand, and given the overall condition of the thing, was worth every penny.

Low mileage '93 Accord also attracted the attention of the Slough-based slimeballs
Low mileage ’93 Accord also attracted the attention of the Slough-based slimeballs

Interestingly, though, on the day of ‘collection’ he was visited by four gentlemen in a BMW 7-Series, who arrived late in the evening, offered him £200 for it then called him something unrepeatable when he suggested they might want to point their car back down the A1(M) and stop wasting his time.

If that wasn’t enough, I was speaking to a friend on the phone last week, who told me about an experience his mum had been subject to when selling his deceased father’s Volvo S60 – a newer car, but advertised on eBay as ‘for sale due to bereavement’ (tip: don’t ever say this in a listing as it attracts chancers like flies to dog poo…). While they’re based in a different part of the UK, their story was very similar – a group turned up to collect it, offered less than half the agreed price, then hung around menacingly after being told no. Luckily, my mate made sure he was with his mum at the time of the proposed sale and was able to protect her from falling victim to this despicable scam, which preys on the people who deserve and need it least.

Similar scammers also tried it on with friend's mum's S60
Similar scammers also tried it on with friend’s mum’s S60

The moral here, then, is to have your wits about you at all times when selling a car, and ideally have someone with you when the new ‘owner’ comes to collect it. Or more importantly, if you have an elderly or vulnerable relative or friend who’s selling a car, make sure you’re there to support them and help them out through the process – show a little human kindness, and let’s not let these scumbags get away with it.

There is a bit of a happy ending in all this, from my perspective at least. After Shifty and his henchmen made good their escape, I made contact with the second highest bidder on the Volvo, who turned out to be a charming and witty professional musician, based in Scotland. A week later, we met in the car park of Luton Airport, a very polite and friendly exchange took place for a slightly lower purchase price, and he drove off into the sunset, restoring some of my faith in human nature into the bargain…

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

20 Comments

  1. A sobering story. Lesson learned is to maybe insist on sealing the deal in daylight, as not many genuine punters would view a car in the dark.

  2. They probably hired or stole that BMW for the day.

    Sadly this is not a new thing, my grandmother had similar trouble in 1987 when selling my late grandfather’s mint B reg Maestro 1.6 HLS (yes we all wish she’d kept it!) and it ended up with my father and my uncle having to ‘persuade’ the potential vendor to walk away ‘whilst he still could’.

  3. Hence why some sellers only allow bids from people with a minimum number of feedbacks.

    Perhaps also check how long the person has been a member.

  4. The last one of this sort that I encountered ( we call them “propjobs” in the trade ) was a serial offender who ended up with a total sentence of 13.5 years ( yes, that’s not a misprint) . The advice hinted at in an earlier post is spot on : shut the door and call the police immediately

  5. As stories like this sadly illustrate, there are a lot of scumbags about.
    I’ve Ebayed two or three cars, and even though they were relatively low value ‘spares or repairs’ sales, as someone else has suggested, I refused bids from anyone with less that ten feedback, and although it costs me a little in charges, insisted on payment in full via payPal before collection.
    In my last sale I did receive offers from someone with zero feedback (although my limit was clearly mentioned in the listing), so I contacted him and politely refused his bid, explaining my reasons. He e-mailed back and I repeated my explanations. As his e-mails continued they became more abusive & more aggressive which strengthened my resolve and convinced me that I was doing the right thing!

  6. I can remember trying to sell my first car, a ten year old Cavalier, and being approached by three baseball capped characters who had twoccers written all over them and aggressively saying they’d give me £ 100 for the car straight away and no one would top their offer. Luckily I stood my ground as apparently these would be the types who wouldn’t change the V5 to their names, and no doubt parking tickets and speeding offences in my name would start appearing, and probably the car would end up written off by them. Fortunately someone more legit, a family man on low wages, turned up the following day and gave me £ 300 for the Cavalier.
    The sale of the Cavalier also provided me with the bulk of the funds for the Rover 213 that I was so keen on.

  7. I hope that Volvo went to a good caring home as it is a lovely example, especially with the rare feature of leather seats.

    A friend of mine sold a H’ registered 240 GL example with 73,000 miles on the odometer about a year ago and I immediately missed it. A lovely car to drive with an in-penetrable feel of solidity and quality. Also the most comfortable and supportive seats I have ever sat in. Cars like these need a good home, not attract the dishonourable types you experienced.

  8. Always be wary of buyers who turn up in a group and aggressively try to buy your car for a very low price. I know it sounds stereotypical, but the three men turned up in a B reg Nova playing rave music at a loud volume and wearing baseball caps, and this spelled trouble to me as no doubt they wouldn’t tell the DVLA they’d bought it and last thing I would want would be a copper turning up saying I was wanted for traffic offences. These types were Whitehaven rough, hardman attitude, roughened up accents, anti social hats and music.

  9. Regrettably this is not new. So much so That I would not try to sell a decent car privatively unless it is via a classic car club and then only to someone who is known in the club. The only thing I might now try via ebay etc. would be a old nail worth £300 tops. Any newish cars I have found in the last 10 years or so that I can beat top book and get a good discount on the replacement when dealing with main dealers. All dealers are interested in is that the car looks ok and has a full service history and I get a very good offer. Back in the early 80’s I never had any problems with private sales but since the start of the 90’s it just went down hill and now no way.

  10. Surely if someone is a decent punter, they wouldn’t turn up with three mates who look like they deal drugs and have form. It’s probably better to advertise the sale of your car at work, where you’d probably know who is buying it, than use EBAY or advertise in Morrisons

  11. Ebay purchasers will sometimes try this tactic. Punters should ask as many questions as they like until the auction ends. Once they make the winning bid any further negotiating from them is ignored. Just send me the money.

    Meet at a public location with cameras, if they are using cash or a cheque meet at the bank , or the credit company that issued it to check it’s good.

    If you are too cheap to use Paypal or let people come to your home you are taking a huge risk.

  12. I had this happen when I was trying to sell my Rover 45 on eBay (needing a fair bit of work to get through MOT). I had two guys turn up and offer me £250 cash as “it was the best anyone would offer”. I politely refused and they still kept on with the “no – one else will give you a better offer”. I politely declined again (and so did my wife who was also involved by this point!). They left in a bit of a huff. I eventually sold it for £550 all-in!

  13. Problem is this scammers would probably buy your car at far less than you wanted for it, I can imagine someone elderly being intimidated by these guys who seem to dress aggressively to make their point, and then sell it on at a profit, or just as bad, not return the V5 to Swansea and leave you liable for parking and speed camera fines.
    Also not wishing to make a stereotype, but why do most of these types like rave music, tracksuits, shaved heads and hooded tops?

  14. Been there and seen this before.

    Sold on Autotrader an 82 Fiesta in 1990 for my brother. Two guys turn up for the car having agreed over the phone that they would pay the money. Get there then immediately halve the bid. Then demanded petrol expenses.

    Lucky for us both my brother and I were young and unwilling to take the bullshit.

    Ended with my Bro waving a rough hewn walking stick that we had used for cattle herding in Ireland in a very intimidating manner.

    Worked a treat. Boys took a walk…

  15. If you sell a classic car and it is rear wheel drive, beware of banger racers. Rear wheel drive cars tend to stand up to frontal impact better than front wheel drive, hence the demand. However, as most cars these days are fwd, there is a paucity and therefore an increased demand for rwd examples, particularly classics which tended to be more robustly manufactured. (eg Volvos)
    Of course banger racers do not want to pay “top whack” for a classic, why should they, they are only going to, in effect, smash it up. So it is in their interests to get the price down as low as possible.
    Whilst it is difficult to generalise, or create stereo types, these characters do tend (in my experience) to be of the scruffy, tracky bottoms, baseeball hatted variety.
    To compound the matter, at banger meetings, there is often a classic race, where often irreplaceable classics are simply destroyed. I do not understand the phsycology behind all this, but it is usually dismissed by claiming the said classics were badly corroded and beyond economic repair (bullshit alert!). What is left at the end of the race,in an attempt to justify the process, then being sold off to keep other classics on the road. So really we should thank them (more suspected bullshit).
    I never sell electrical equipment via Ebay now, as I was accused of selling a video recorder on Ebay, that allegedly didn’t work. I know it did because I tested it before I sent it. I was forced to give the low life his money back, so I suppose in the end he got a working VCR for nothing.

  16. Horrible story, most would feel very intimidated I think.

    Beware though that Paypal is NOT the solution here. As a seller if you cannot provide tracked proof of signed receipt, I.E. Special/recorded delivery or equivalent (which obviously on a collected car, you can’t), buyers can get a full refund no questions asked. This is a whole different scam in itself. Never take PayPal on a collected item, car or otherwise. I have been stung by this myself.

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