If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. One of CarToq’s resident experts, let’s call him Alpha, is in the market for a pre-owned car. He lives in Bangalore, and hence was checking out online classified such as Olx, Sulekha and Quikr, all in the hope of landing up a fine pre-owned car. He came across this Ford Ecosport Diesel that looked very alluring. Registered in 2013, this compact SUV, which had run just 12,550 Kms and that’s barely two years old, was selling for just 4.8 lakh rupees. Titanium, read the variant.
Scam Ad #1
Warning bell # 1. If you spot cars that are selling at dirt cheap prices, get cautious.
Now, the same Ecosport when bought brand new, sells for about 12 lakh rupees in Bangalore. So, a 2 year old car selling for about 40 % of the original value got Alpha into red alert mode. Keen to find out what the vehicle was all about, Alpha called up the number listed with the ad. It was answered by a man who had an African accent. The man claimed to be the owner of the Ecosport and that he was in Delhi presently. “If you wanted to take a look at the car, you would have to meet one Kumar at the airport”, said the African accented scamster. Airport?, wondered Alpha.
Warning bell # 2. Scamsters are always out of the city travelling, or abroad. If the owner of the car can’t meet you or show you the car, simply walk away.
The African accented man throws a full googly now. “I had the car parked at the Bangalore International Airport as I was in a hurry to leave”. Now, the airport to most Bangaloreans, is about 30-35 Kms away from the city center. “If you want to take a look at the Ecosport, you’ll have to check the car at the airport. But there’s a slight problem here” the scamster continued.
Warning bell # 3. If there’s a slight problem, it usually is a scam.
“To look at the car parked at the airport, you first need to clear parking dues.”, said the scamster. How much, Akpha asked. “47,000 rupees, because the Ecosport’s been in the parking lot for a while now.”, said the African gent. In case Alpha didn’t like the car, the parking fee would be returned. If he did like the car, the parking fee would be set off against the total cost of the car.
A car expert, Alpha simply dropped the call and walked away. The more gullible would have done things differently.
Scam Ad #2
Now, here’s what trawling through the numerous ads on Quikr revealed. The 2 year old Ford Ecosport Diesel being sold at 4.8 lakh rupees isn’t a one off case. There’s the Renault Duster 110 PS Diesel being sold for even lower, for 4.5 lakh rupees. Modus operandi? The same, with the SUV said to be parked safely in the long term parking slot at Bangalore’s Devanahalli airport.
Scam Ad #3
Then there’s the case of the 2014 Honda Mobilio Diesel, selling for 4.85 lakh rupees. Common thread? Parked safely at Devanahalli airport, with outstanding parking charges.
What would have happened in case Alpha had believed the seller and had transferred the parking fee to the seller’s bank account?
1. Alpha would have reached the airport to find that the car did not exist.
2. Alpha would have lost 47,000 rupees to a scamster.
3. In the worst case, Alpha would have been mugged by the scamster’s accomplices in case he’d carried the rest of the money to be paid for the car.
5 precautions you should take as an online car buyer
1. Never pay an advance online/offline. Always settle money after getting possession of the car.
2. Always meet the owner of the car in a public place, in daylight, and with people around. Take someone trusted along with you when you go to inspect the car.
3. Never carry a substantial amount cash on you. Though you find the car online, you will have to use the offline route to make payment. A cheque or a demand draft is the safe way to transact.
4. Always deal with the owner directly while taking delivery of the car, and during the change of ownership process. If the owner is “too busy to transact directly” or is always “out of town on business”, walk away from the deal. Note: You can find the car through a used car dealer but need to finish the transaction in presence of the owner for maximum transparency and transactional safety.
5. Insist on full ownership, financing, service and insurance records. Cross check details wherever applicable.
3 ways in which an online buyer can be misled/fooled
1. Verified listings won’t protect you. This has to be one of the biggest hoaxes from online classified portals. Verified listings usually mean nothing more than the mobile number and/or email address of the seller being verified. Don’t rely on online classifieds to cover your back. They’re just there to provide a platform.
2. Photographs of a used car, usually mean nothing. Scamsters trawl the interweb and often steal someone else’s car photographs. So, don’t get lulled into the false belief that cars with photographs are safe to buy.
3. Don’t take the online classified portal’s word for it. In this case, Quikr has a meter beneath every ad, which tells a buyer whether the deal s/he is getting into is a good deal or not.
This meter simply compares the price of the product with that of other similar products. In case of the Ecosport, Duster and Mobilio, Quikr’s deal meter says that it’s a very good deal. Innocent buyers may be misled or fooled by this feature. Intelligent buyers know that they shouldn’t believe what the online classified’s portal says.