Kev Quirk

AutoTrader Scammers

03 Jun 2023 | ~5 minute read

I was nearly scammed while selling a car on AutoTrader. Here's how the whole thing went...

Owning cars is a pain in the arse; they're money pits and I hate dealing with them. My wife and I need a car each, so the problem is compounded by running 2 cars in the household.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I booked my wife's car in for its annual service and MOT (an annual safety test that all cars older than 3 years on UK roads need to pass).

Her car is an old, 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe - it's a big old tank of a 4x4. We had it serviced, and it required 2 new tyres to pass the MOT. £500 later and the car was good to drive for another year. Not too bad for such an old car.

Breakdown

A week after the service & MOT, my wife's car broke down. Long story short, the head gasket had gone on the engine. If you don't know engines, that's pretty much as bad as it gets. It's very labour intensive, and very expensive to fix.

Her car is too old and wasn't viable to fix, so we've had to buy a new car. Anyway...to try and recoup some of the money I had just spent on the car, I decided to put it up on AutoTrader (a UK based car selling site). I was honest, spoke about the head gasket and listed it for spares or repair.

Enter the scammers

A few days after posting the car to AutoTrader, I had a couple of interested people contact me. Rather than typing out the entire saga, here's the salient points:

What are the chances of Guy A and Guy B both being 1.5 hours away from me AND getting in touch around 30 minutes apart? Slim, I'd say.

Anyway, back to the timeline...

Why on earth would you bring a pregnant person with you to go pickup a scrap car? This car can't be driven and would need to be towed back - no pregnant woman should be doing that.

Alarm bells are really kicking in now. 🚨🚨

I told Guy B that it's too late, I have young kids and that they should turn back as we're going to bed. Something just seemed off, and I wasn't comfortable. Needless to say, my wife was also worried.

They had our full address, but luckily for us, our house has a name, not a number, as do many of the surrounding houses in the village where we live.

The only identifier of our house is a sign on the gate at the end of the drive. So I removed that sign, closed the gate and moved my wife's car behind the garage where it couldn't be seen from the road. I also placed a camera out, just in case.

Around 11pm (5 hours after we expected them to arrive) a car landed at the end of our drive, the interior lights came on and it contained at least 3 men (I couldn't see clearly, so there may have been more). It definitely wasn't a man and his pregnant wife.

I could see them (from the camera) looking up our drive and pointing, but they couldn't see my wife's car and there was no sign that they had the correct house. So after 15 minutes sat at the end of the drive, they left.

I had blocked the number of Guy B so they couldn't contact me. I did get a couple of calls from another number, so I declined them and blocked that number too. This was all when the car was at the end of the drive.

It's now been a few days and no-one has come back. My guess would be that they were after a cheap car to use as a one off for something nefarious. I'll never know, I'm happy to say.

Be careful!

Only reason I'm writing about this is to warn others to be careful when doing this kind of thing online. I work in Cyber Security, so am quite savvy when it comes to online scams, but many people aren't.

I've since arranged for the car to be collected by a local scrap company. They took it off my hands for £1,000 so I'm happy with that. I managed to get my money back for the service, MOT and new tyres, and my wife has a new car too.

So all is well in the world, I suppose. Well, no, the world is fucked but that's another story entirely...

Update 04th June 2023: I mentioned this whole saga to my neighbour yesterday and he told me a story about when his brother sold a car on AutoTrader last year. Pretty much the exact same thing happened - multiple men came to his house late at night and intimidated him into handing over the car for cheaper than agreed.

A few days later he had the Police knocking on his door because the car had been used in a robbery in Birmingham (ironically, that's around 1.5 hours from where I live). So I think I dodged a bullet.

TL;DR - trust no-one, people. Especially on the Internet.

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