The Sunday Mail
Stanley Makombe Motoring
OF late, criminals have become increasingly cunning and they are now preying on potential used car buyers, fleecing them of their hard-earned money in an elaborate scam that is also roping in car dealers.There have been increased incidences of fraudulent vehicle owners who bait potential customers using the most-sought-after cars on the market.
Usually, unsuspecting car dealers are being given cars by individuals who falsely claim to be the real owners of the vehicle. In any case, it is difficult to verify ownership of a vehicle as most people are now reluctant to change vehicle ownership. The whole process is considered expensive and cumbersome.
As a result, cars are constantly changing hands without the proper paperwork. Usually, a few days after presenting stolen vehicles to car dealers, the criminals look for their own buyers through advertising. After luring potential buyers, they hand them over to the car dealers. They will provide a convenient platform to assure the potential victims that they are in safe hands.
The prices of the vehicles are often good and the payment terms flexible, conditions that prove irresistible to most customers.
Subsequently, the buyer is then invoiced by the car dealer, who, in turn, is promised a commission.
Customers are persuaded to pay the deposit and then settle the balance later. Soon after this, the criminal vanishes. The customer will ultimately lose the vehicle to the police while the car dealer will be a suspect in the theft of the vehicle.
Other criminals, working in cahoots with vehicle owners, sell the vehicle through unsuspecting car dealers. After a deal is struck and the money is paid, they deliberately fail to surrender the registration book. A few days later, the vehicle owner, in rehearsed fashion, then makes a police report.
The vehicle is then recovered, prejudicing the potential buyer and the car dealership in the process.
The criminal and the vehicle owner will then share the proceeds.
Cases of this nature have become so rampant that it is advisable for dealers to put proper systems through a checklist to ascertain that the person claiming ownership of a vehicle is indeed the legitimate owner. There is also need to ascertain whether the vehicle has not been stolen.
Apparently, the law has no room for ignorance and therefore dealers must have strict rules when receiving stocks to protect themselves and the buyers. The process should include:
- Making it mandatory for proof of ownership, including the registration book or an agreement of sale from previous owner and a signed affidavit as a condition to accept the stocks.
- Checking whether the engine and chassis numbers correspond with those in the registration book.
- Checking with Interpol through Southerton Police Station to establish that the vehicle is not stolen property.
- Checking the registered owner on the registration book at Central Vehicle Registry (CVR)
- And lastly by making the vehicle owner sign a mandate to sell or an affidavit to empower the dealership to sell the vehicle on his/her behalf. In my view, dealers must not be hurried into accepting vehicle stocks without going through the above checklist.
The implications of selling a stolen vehicle are too grave to ignore. One risks getting a custodial sentence once convicted. It is clear that unsuspecting dealers are being used as a conduit to conduct such fraudulent activities. If they observe the above process, they will be able to curb such malpractices, and, at the same time, protect themselves from prosecution. Buyers must equally demand to see the registration book, verify ownership status through CVR and ascertain the status of the vehicle before paying.
However, it must be noted that there are fake registration books circulating and, as such, a mere presentation of a so-called registration book is not good enough to hurriedly conclude that all is in order. It is unfortunate that most used car dealers do not belong to legitimate associations that would have made it easy to develop and enforce these crucial checks.
Deal with credible dealers who have been in the business for long. They have a name to protect. People might find the whole process cumbersome but it is absolutely necessary.
Stanley Makombe is managing director of Royal Auto Solutions and Radio Car Torque producer/presenter. For feedback and contributions email: [email protected]