Consumers urged to take precautions when buying cars online

Crimestoppers, gardaí and car sales websites in campaign to prevent online scams

Car buyers have been urged to take precautions when buying online in order to protect themselves from fraud. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Car buyers have been urged to take precautions when buying online in order to protect themselves from fraud and from buying stolen vehicles.

Crimestoppers, the trust set up in 1998 to provide a confidential means of reporting crimes, has come together with car sales websites Carzone and DoneDeal to provide tips for consumers.

Finbarr Garland of DoneDeal, a former head of the Garda stolen vehicle unit, said that in only about 0.01 per cent of car ads placed with the site, it had needed to take “appropriate action” and make a report to gardaí.

The kind of fraud typically encountered includes cars sold with false documentation, where the car chassis number does not match the records presented to the buyer. Consumers may also be fooled by fake NCT certificates and motor tax discs.


Buyers have also in some cases paid deposits to bank accounts in other EU member states for vehicles advertised on “fake ebay pages”. The buyer then hears nothing from the seller and the legitimate website has no record of a bogus sale item.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Derek Byrne, chairman of Crimestoppers, said on Wednesday that although the overall volume of fraud involving cars sold online was very small, consumers could take a number of steps to protect themselves.

He said the “big flag” for gardaí and partners in the online businesses was a car advertised at well below the market value.

“You need to look behind the ad itself and what’s being sold,” he said.

Consumers would sometimes end up with a stolen car with false plates but with the correct registration and chassis number on the vehicle registration certificate provided by the seller.

Mr Byrne said some sellers would agree to meet the interested buyer in a public place but then change this at the last minute to an isolated area.

He suggested that anyone meeting someone to purchase a vehicle meet in a public area, preferably somewhere with CCTV.

He urged buyers to have a pre-purchase vehicle check carried out, but to make sure that the chassis number on the vehicle was correlated with the documents.

Since November 2014, there have been 212 referrals to the stolen motor vehicles investigation unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

They had made “significant detections”, a number of persons were before the courts and a number of vehicles had been recovered, Mr Byrne said.

Of 6,128 vehicles stolen in 2015, a total of 3,838 (63 per cent) were recovered, the assistant commissioner said. Of those not recovered, some were scrapped and others were shipped abroad.

He emphasised that online car sales was a legitimate business and that only a very small percentage of ads involved fraud.

“It’s a very small percentage of difficulties we are having with false or stolen documents and stolen cars being sold online.”

Some 603,000 ads were placed here last year for the sale of cars online, with a total of €2.5 billion worth of vehicles sold.

Tips for buyers are on the the website and also on the Carzone and DoneDeal sites.

Crimestoppers urged anyone with information about a crime, or possible crime, involving a vehicle to contact it at 1800 250025.