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How did two used car supermarket directors turn into cyber sleuths?

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It may sound like something straight out of Hollywood, but Imperial Car Supermarkets operations director Neil Smith was forced to become a cyber sleuth when a bogus website set up using its name and advertising its stock at rock bottom prices to dupe consumers into parting with their cash.

“Whilst it was obvious the website was nothing to do with us, it still tarnished our name and we were extremely proactive in our efforts to close down the fake site,” said Smith who will take to the stage at AM’s forthcoming Digital Marketing Conference to share Imperial’s story.

The conference, which takes place at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, on February 3 with digital agency Marketing Delivery as headline sponsor, will cover all aspects of digital marketing with a focus on dealer experiences and insights as well as masterclasses from a host of industry experts.

As well as combating the bogus website, which included one hapless customer turning up on site expecting to collect a vehicle, Imperial Car Supermarkets has seen off a malicious counter-website which saw an unknown person set up a blog discrediting the business backed by a PPC campaign.

Smith said: “The PPC campaign led to the cost of bidding on our company name as a keyword spiral from 20p to £2.

"It’s quite scary how a business can be subjected to an online attack without there even being a breach of our own internet security.

"We have learned some very valuable lessons and the experience helped us develop as open as possible an approach online much more quickly. Ironically, our philosophy of absolute transparency, both online and in our showrooms, has seen us grow at a much faster rate than we ever anticipated.”

Imperial was the first retailer to upload a vehicle’s provenance and RAC inspection report on its website so consumers can immediately see that the car is owned by the company and is available for sale.

The company, which operates six sites from Southampton to Northampton, is among just a handful of automotive retailers prepared to provide a vehicle’s entire documentation including service history online as part of its ‘shop window’.

In addition, each car is also shown with 40 images as well as a 360 degree interior/exterior panoramic view.

Bogus websites are rarely out of the headlines.

Last year a number of arrests were made after scammers imitated official government websites such as the passport office and DVLA to con people out of paying out for so-called administration fees.

The Express newspaper carried a story last month (November 12) warning shoppers to beware of bogus websites when snapping up Black Friday deals.

There were 276,993 cases of fraud in 2014, according to Cifas, a UK not-for profit organisation with a mission to to deter, detect and prevent fraud and fraud-related crime.

Most (41%) were identity theft and whilst the organisation recognises the internet offers fraudsters an opportunity to commit fraud on a grand scale, technological advances in security have also been key in its prevention.

Last year saw a reduction in facility takeover fraud, where an account or product is ‘hijacked’, down to 6.8%.


Tickets are available to dealers and manufacturers, with a limited number of supplier tickets on sale. To book, please contact Emma-Louise Kinnaird on 01733 395133, email or visit


Wednesday, February 3


Ricoh Arena, Coventry CV6 6GE


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