Online vehicle fraud cost victims £17.8 million in 2013

March 27th 2014

Online vehicle fraud is costing the UK £17.8 million each year, according to new figures released by Get Safe Online and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) today. 

For information and advice on buying and selling vehicles online safely, click here

In 2013, more than 6,600 UK residents reported online vehicle fraud to the police, with an average loss of £4,078 per victim. The range in losses is considerable – from smaller losses of less than £50, which mainly related to holding deposits, to one unlucky victim who lost £300,000 where multiple vehicles were involved.      

Fraudsters used the following methods to steal their victims’ cash:

– Part or full payment for the vehicles and then loss of contact with the “seller” accounted for nearly half (49%) of frauds

– More than a third (37%) of cases involved the payment of a deposit rather than the full amount

– Bank transfers (58%), fake eBay Invoices (14%) and fake Google Payment Systems Invoices (12%) offering non-existent "buyer protection" for the transaction were the most commonly cited payment methods

– Some victims paid funds to holding accounts on the basis that funds will be held until the buyer had received the goods and was satisfied with them

– Other victims received texts from well-known websites requesting refundable fees for car inspections

Further statistics show that:

– Nearly three quarters (71%) of victims were men

– People in their forties reported a quarter (25%) of all online vehicle fraud

– London was the most targeted city for online vehicle fraud, followed by Bristol and then Birmingham

Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, commented: “It has never been easier to buy or sell a vehicle than it is now thanks to the internet. The ability to upload and view photos and vehicle descriptions, and contact buyers and sellers – all with a click – have transformed the business, and people's experience of buying and selling. At the same time the internet has also made it easier for dishonest buyers and sellers to defraud larger numbers of people. Vehicles are valuable goods and because of this, trading them isn’t a decision that people take lightly, so it’s awful that fraudsters are exploiting popular vehicle websites. Hopefully our latest campaign will make people more aware of the risks before going online to buy or sell a vehicle.

Detective Superintendent Pete O'Doherty, Director of the NFIB at the City of London Police said: “People looking for a new car are increasingly doing their searching and purchasing online, giving them access to a much greater range of vehicles and providing them with opportunities to get the best possible deal. Unfortunately not all adverts posted on the internet are legitimate, with last year thousands of buyers falling foul of fraudsters who pocket and then disappear with deposits and part and full payments for vehicles that are not actually for sale. The NFIB is supporting this campaign to raise awareness of the threat posed by online vehicle fraud and would also urge anyone who has fallen victim to this crime to report it to Action Fraud so we can quickly identify and target those most responsible for destroying people’s dreams of having a new car.”     

A/Detective Chief Inspector Gary Miles at the Metropolitan Police said: “Allegations of online fraud are on the increase. Criminals are exploiting a lack of awareness amongst the general public to “scam” them out of considerable sums of money. The MPS is working in partnership with Get Safe Online and Gumtree to prevent victims from transferring money to bank accounts when they have not personally seen either the seller or the vehicle they have agreed to purchase.  Retailers are making every effort to identify and withdraw, as soon as possible, fraudulent adverts. However we would ask you to be extra vigilant when purchasing vehicles and parting with your money.”

Sam Diamond, Head of Communications at said: “Classifieds websites like Gumtree provide a free and easy way to find a second-hand car. But as with any high-value items for sale, there will always be fraudsters looking to take advantage of innocent buyers. We are working with Get Safe Online to advise users of two things; always meet face to face and inspect the vehicle before handing over any money and, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting

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