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The Motorists' Guide

CMA warns of ‘bogus buyer’ car theft increase


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Specialist motor insurance loss adjuster, Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA), which recently became part of the QuestGates Group, is warning of an increase in the ‘bogus buyer’ vehicle theft method, particularly in the South East of England.

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The scam sees criminals targeting vehicle owners advertising their car, van or motorbike for sale privately, via local newspapers or online marketplaces. The victim, being a considerate seller, helpfully gathers everything the crook wants – the vehicle, keys and documentation –in one place. The sting commonly comes via a request for a test drive, with the criminal seizing any opportunity to jump into the driver’s seat and speed off. In the worst cases, it can involve threatening behaviour or violence.

Philip Swift, a former detective, now Technical Director at CMA, said: “The bogus buyer method is as old as the hills and unfortunately it is on the rise again. It starts with deception, taking advantage of peoples’ good nature, and ends with a brazen theft. It generally follows some haggling, sufficient to keep up the pretence. Once a small price reduction is agreed, the seller’s spirits are up and their guard is down. The unscrupulous perpetrator then casually asks for a test drive, constantly looking to a manoeuvre a situation where there is no one near the car and they have the key. They only need a moment and they’re gone.

“With the UK stolen vehicle recovery rate currently at an all-time low of just 23%, down from 80% in 2006, the chances of you ever seeing your car again are not good. And there’s a further potential kick in the teeth in that, while your insurance company may pay out, the process might well be delayed by the need to acquire paperwork related to an ongoing police investigation.

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“Our best advice is that prevention is better than cure. Be aware that some potential purchasers are less than honest. Did they arrive alone or get a lift? If they got a lift, is their mate still there? They will not want you to see that car as it links to them. It is good practice to always have a friend with you and keep hold of the keys and paperwork until the payment has hit your account. Additionally, please consider the wisdom of offering a test drive when selling privately under any circumstances, whether your buyer is bogus or not. Are they insured to drive your car? Do they even have a licence? If they crash it could well cost you, not only in terms of breaching your insurance policy and losing your no claims bonus, but in breaking the law and getting six points on your licence as well.”

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