Automotive fraud and scams have skyrocketed in 2021, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The independent watchdog reports almost $300,000 was lost to fraud during the first quarter of this year alone (January to March inclusive). For reference, that’s roughly 20 per cent more than was lost throughout the entirety of 2019.
“As second-hand car sales increased during the pandemic, unfortunately so did vehicle scams,” said Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair of the ACCC. “If current trends continue, Australians could lose much more to vehicle scams this year [than in 2020]. We want to raise awareness of these scams to reduce the number of people who may be vulnerable to them.”
Vehicle scams – which generally involve fake in-demand model variants listed online for well below market value – are most prevalent on Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and other classified sites according to the ACCC.
Further, the government body found that in 97 per cent of reported cases this year scammers claimed to be enlisted in the military or to work for the Department of Defence, under the pretence they were selling their vehicle prior to deployment.
“A price that is too good to be true should be a warning sign for potential buyers … If the seller claims to be unavailable and insists on payment before meeting the buyer or allowing them to pick up their new car, this should raise suspicions,” Ms Rickard said.
“Always try to inspect the vehicle before purchase and avoid unusual payment methods. If you have any doubts, do not go ahead with the deal … Fortunately, over 80 per cent of people who reported vehicle scams to us managed to avoid losing money by identifying the scam early.
“We encourage consumers to trust their instincts – if something seems too good to be true it probably is.”