Used car advert tool cracks down on online sales fraud

Car advert scams

If the car’s price looks too good to be true, it could be a scammer’s ad

Users advised caution if price is too low by Brego Advert Checker; stops buyers scammed out of full price

With used cars now so expensive and online car sales scams increasing as a result, a vehicle valuation tool has been developed that advises buyers when an advertised price is too good to be true. 

Brego Advert Check enables a buyer to compare the price of the vehicle they are interested in with its estimated dealer price and auction value. If the price is too low, the user is advised to be cautious and to visit the dealer before proceeding further. 

The online tool, which is free to use at, was developed in response to the growing incidence of a type of online fraud where people are tempted into paying a deposit or even the full purchase price for a car that has been deliberately underpriced, usually by thousands of pounds. 

In fact, the vehicle doesn’t exist and, unless they have paid by credit card, which the seller is unlikely to accept anyway, the buyer never sees their money again. 

Simon Hunt, co-founder of Brego, the vehicle data and valuation company that developed the tool, was inspired to create it by the increasing number of reports of people being scammed by fraudsters this way. “I checked out some of the scammers’ online ads,” he said. 

“They were quite sophisticated and I thought they could only be so if the scams were proving worthwhile. I knew we must try to stop it.” 

Within a few days, Hunt and his colleagues had designed Advert Check. To use it, the buyer enters the registration number, mileage and price of the vehicle they have seen. 

They are also asked to enter the website address of the organisation claiming to offer it. This is optional but, if supplied, it helps Brego track scam websites. The tool compares the selling price with Brego’s dealer price and auction value data and tells the buyer how much cheaper the vehicle is. 

If the difference is too great, the system flags a caution. The tool also checks the vehicle’s main details and can show previous advertisement listings, including the vehicle’s price and mileage and seller’s name. Hunt said: “These sophisticated scams are causing unsuspecting individuals to lose substantial amounts of money and are getting smarter. 

“However, while Advert Check serves as a robust tool for scam detection, it doesn’t provide an absolute guarantee and users should still exercise due diligence when making a purchase.”

How effective is Brego Advert Check?

Within seconds of logging onto Facebook Marketplace, we found our first suspicious car, listed on the site’s home page. The 2012-reg Range Rover Evoque 2.2 SD4 automatic had 53,000 miles on the clock and was being advertised for £4750. 

According to Advert Check, this was £6141 less than the estimated dealer price and £4616 less than the auction value. We messaged the seller for more details but when, a few minutes later, we rechecked the listing, it had been withdrawn. 

Drilling deeper into Facebook Marketplace, we then found a suspiciously cheap Range Rover Velar. Registered in 2017 and with 100,000 miles, it was listed at just £10,900, which is £12,349 less than Advert Check’s estimated dealer price and £9094 less than the auction value. 

The seller, a man calling himself Mr Ali and based in Islamabad, responded to our enquiry by telling us to email a business in Evesham. 

A person using a different name replied and explained that the Velar was cheap because it had been bought at auction but it was in a warehouse and so could not be inspected. 

Instead, it would be delivered to us for £130. We checked the business address with Companies House, which recorded it as being a freight transport firm with one director, a Bulgarian. 

Google Maps showed the location to be a housing estate. Advert Check had recorded details of another advertisement for the Velar, placed a few days earlier by a car dealership. 

A spokesman for the dealer claimed not to be connected with the Facebook advertisement and said he had spoken to at least four people in recent weeks about similar listings, some of whom had parted with up to £3000 in deposits but received no car. 

Ali’s Marketplace page gave dozens of listings for other underpriced cars, including 2015-reg BMW X3s for £4000, a 2020-reg Volkswagen Touareg for £10,000 and a 2017-reg Volkswagen Touran for £3800. 

His methods – advertiser and car located at different ends of the earth, advertising absurdly low prices, demanding an upfront payment with no possibility of seeing the car, giving a fake business address taken from Companies House and communicating outside Facebook by email – are typical of this type of online scam. 

When asked for a comment, Facebook Marketplace directed Autocar to its scam advice centre, where users can learn how to recognise and avoid fraudulent listings. Autocar has reported Ali to Facebook Marketplace via the company’s reporting tools.

Source: Autocar

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