Another police force has brought to our attention that some members of the public who have had their vehicles advertised on a vehicle sales web-site have received scam e-mails. The scam, officially known as the West African advance fee or 419 fraud involves a buyer from abroad posing as an international dealer who wants to buy a vehicle.
They claim that they are owed money by a client in the UK who will send a bankers draft for the full price of the vehicle, plus a few extra thousand pounds to cover the cost of the shipping without viewing the vehicle or proof of condition and put their lack of phone number down to a temporary fault.
The emails are often full of spelling mistakes and poor grammar to persuade the victim that the fraudster is an uneducated person who wouldn't have the ability to defraud them. The fraudsters also try to make themselves seem genuine by stating that the vehicle is a present for their wife, son, daughter etc and use this as reason for the urgency involved in the purchase. Many of the emails are signed off with a comment like 'regards to you and your family'.
The seller is then asked to pay the draft into their bank and wire the excess money to the buyer to pay for the shipping costs. The bank draft itself may seem genuine but reports have been received of bank drafts being accepted which have watermarks and bank branch stamps on them but are revealed as forgery after being paid into the bank.
After the money has been sent, the seller hears nothing more from the 'buyer'. Normally, the bank will contact the seller after a few days to tell them that the bankers draft was stolen, forged, or that it has bounced. The money may look like it has cleared initially but can go on to bounce days later so check with your bank how long it will take for a bankers draft to completely clear and do not release the vehicle until your bank confirms the funds have cleared.
If the bankers draft is forged the money will be stripped from the sellers account, leaving them thousands of pounds out of pocket. Please be aware of this if you are selling your vehicle or are planning to do so on in the future.
It has been brought to our attention by a neighbouring policing area that a member of the public recently received a cheque in excess of the price of the new vehicle they had bought (from a Building Society) which appeared genuine. They then got another letter stating that the excessive cheque was sent in error and would the vendor please send a cheque for the difference which was a couple of thousand pounds.
Luckily this person waited to see, if the original cheque cleared - which it didn't. Please be aware of this and check with the Building Society/Bank to ensure that this correspondence is genuine.