West Midlands Police has launched the campaign following a ‘huge increase’ in the number of car buyers being conned into handing over thousands of pounds – only to find their new car is stolen.
Assistant Chief Constable (Crime) Stuart Hyde offered tips to buyers, such as paying not in cash but bankers draft and only buying from the seller's home, not yours
"Most importantly, take a photograph of the seller standing in front of the car, with the registration showing. If the car is later found to be stolen at least it will give the police a start and we may be able to trace the person," he says.
"Last week alone, in just one page of a national car sales magazine, three vehicles on one page were identified as being stolen. If you multiply that by the number of cars on sale, you get an idea of the enormous extent of the problem.".
There are an estimated 10,000 ‘cloned cars’ on the roads in Britain.
"Although car crime has gone down by almost a third in the last five years in the West Midlands, there is a growing number of gangs operating sophisticated scams which con people into handing over often thousands of pounds in cash. Usually, the car is advertised in the classified ads section of car magazines or newspapers. They give a mobile contact which is usually an untraceable pay-as-you go number. The ‘owner’ agrees to meet up at an agreed location and hands over vehicle documents which appear genuine.
"A few weeks after being registered by the new owner, police officers turn up at their door and take the vehicle away because it has been stolen. The new owner is left with no car, is thousands of pounds out of pocket and cannot claim on their insurance."