A recent study by Lloyds Bank highlights the prevalence of scams targeting car buyers - now making vehicles the most common type of online shopping scam reported by victims in the UK. Victims, often lured by deceptive online ads, are tricked into paying deposits to "secure" vehicles due to supposed high demand.
The study found that vehicle buying scams had increased by 74% in the first half of 2023, compared to the same period in 2022. The average loss for victims was found to be almost £1,000 (£998) in the first half of this year.
Scammers frequently use real car images and employ pressure-selling tactics. Once payment is made, the scammer disappears, leaving buyers with financial losses and sometimes fake pickup addresses.
The Ford Fiesta is the most commonly used car model in these scams, alongside BMWs and Audis. Scammers also target motorbikes, classic cars, vans, and auto parts.
Individuals aged 25 to 34 have been found to be the most susceptible. Meta platforms, especially Facebook and Instagram, host the majority of these scams (68%), while 15% originate on eBay.
Lloyds Bank's Fraud Prevention Director, Liz Ziegler, expressed concern over the significant increase in scams targeting vehicle buyers on social media. She highlighted Facebook as the primary platform for such scams due to criminals creating fake profiles and listing non-existent items. Ziegler called for social media companies to take more responsibility in safeguarding consumers and recommended buying from approved dealers, using debit or credit cards for safety, and transferring funds only when the car is received.
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Meta, the parent company of Facebook, responded by stating they have anti-scam systems in place, require financial services advertisers to be FCA-authorised for UK users, and run awareness campaigns on spotting fraudulent activity. eBay, on the other hand, claimed that vehicle scams on their platform are very rare, emphasizing the importance of in-person vehicle inspections before transferring money.