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Home > Sell my car > Spotting fraudulent payments

One of the most common worries amongst people planning on selling their car to a private individual is getting scammed. Fraudulent payments can leave you out of pocket and without a car, so it's important to know how to spot them and what to do.

The first safeguard is simply to make sure that you never release your vehicle to anyone until you're satisfied that the funds are in your bank account. This means that certain payment methods are off limits for buying and selling used cars, and this includes personal cheques. It's easy to write a personal cheque without having the money in your account and it's impossible to tell when someone is doing this. The rule is simple... NEVER ACCEPT A PERSONAL CHEQUE as payment for a car.

The only real recommended forms of payment are: cash, a banker's draft and a bank transfer. If you've received one of these (and can be sure that they're not fraudulent) then you can feel pretty comfortable about handing over the keys.

Cash and bank transfers are both quite easy to verify. One way of verifying a bank transfer is to meet up at your buyer's bank and ask them to process the transfer there and then, and get a receipt or record of the transfer. Alternatively, some types of transfer between certain banks will clear instantly and you'll be able to verify with your bank (either by phone, online, or in person) that the money is in your account before you hand over the keys.

Banker's drafts (also known as banker's cheques) are more difficult to verify, however. A banker's draft, when genuine, is a guarantee of funds from your buyer's bank and unlike a personal cheque it constitutes proof that you will get paid. However, there have been cases of forged banker's drafts being used as payment for used cars. The way to check is to take it to your bank to ensure that it's genuine and has been paid off by the bank.

To avoid any worries about whether or not a banker's draft is real it's important to agree the method of payment in advance of meeting up, and to meet during banking hours. If this means waiting until the weekend is over, it's well worth it.

Be careful with buyers who insist on meeting outside of banking hours and who refuse to meet at a bank (yours or theirs). A genuine buyer will be fine with you taking care to ensure the payment is real.

Do not to allow yourself to be pressured. One of the tell-tale signs of a con-artist is that they'll try to pressure you to close the deal more quickly than you'd like. Any buyer who puts pressure on you to accept payment on their terms should be treated with caution.

Agree the payment terms before meeting up. If you happen to meet with a buyer who insists on a different form of payment than agreed, or who refuses to pay you in one of the ways you deem acceptable, then you should not accept their payment. Just say you've had a change of heart.

It's always advisable to bring someone with you to a car viewing. It's also recommended that you meet prospective buyers in a well-lit place where there are plenty of CCTV cameras. In the unlikely event that a potential buyer becomes aggressive you should call the police.

Remember, these things do not occur very often. The vast majority of used car transactions go ahead smoothly, without any attempt at fraud or any danger. At the same time, any ordinary buyer will understand the need to take precautions.


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