- The “resteal” scam involves used car buyers being tricked into purchasing a cloned vehicle
- Days after the purchase, scammers who sold them the car steal it back with a spare key
Motorists are being warned of a “worrying increase” in used car sales fraud – and experts say motorists in the north of England are most likely to fall victim.
“Resteal” is a scam in which unsuspecting used car buyers purchase a cloned vehicle, only to have it stolen just days later by the very people who sold it to them, he explains Claims adjuster for motor vehicle insurance, Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA).
It is said that criminals then move on to their next victim and repeat the dishonest trick using the same vehicle, changing the identity again.
How to avoid a ‘resteal scam’ when buying a used car: Motorists have been warned by the CMA of a worrying increase in this tactic, which aims to trick motorists into buying cloned vehicles only to be stolen again just days later
Philip Swift, a former detective and now managing director at CMA, says the Resteal scam is a combination of theft and fraud that is “repeated in quick succession and has devastating effects”.
He warns that criminals use a range of tactics, including stealing the identities of real cars that are the same make, model and color as the car they have for sale, usually at a far lower price than others that are listed online.
Even if a buyer runs a background check on the license plate, the details of a legitimate vehicle will appear and are unlikely to raise any red flags.
After purchasing the car at what appears to be a good price, victims will discover within days that the vehicle has been stolen.
This is because fraudsters follow the buyer home, only to return within a few days and steal the vehicle with a spare key.
Swift said most cases of re-theft occurred in the north of England, where specialist gangs tried to deceive motorists in search of a good deal.
After purchasing the car at what appears to be a good price, victims will discover within days that the vehicle has been stolen. This is because fraudsters follow the buyer home, only to return within a few days and steal the vehicle with a spare key
“We live in a time where technology makes it relatively easy to detect a vehicle masquerading as another (same license plate, seemingly correct documentation, etc.),” he says.
“The criminals know this, so they use false identities and change their addresses frequently.”
“These unscrupulous crooks are wreaking havoc on both the innocent buyers and the owner of the legitimate vehicle whose identity has been impersonated.”
“The former have to explain to their insurance company that their new car has been stolen, which immediately sets off alarm bells.”
“The latter might happily drive past when stopped and arrested – because the police understandably, if mistakenly, believe they have found a stolen car; In fact, they arrested a vehicle identity theft victim.
For scammers who want to make money quickly, resteal has many advantages.
Criminals know the car they are using as bait and therefore know the identity points that need to be changed.
If they know that they can deceive a buyer by hiding the true identity of the engine, they assume that they will be successful if they repeat the process by matching the vehicle to another similar car from which they know it exists.
The CMA says it has developed software that automatically flags any anomalies associated with all vehicle registration marks (VRMs) it monitors.
Staff are immediately alerted to any suspicious activity and promptly inform affected parties.
Five top tips to avoid becoming a victim of the “resteal” used car scam
Philip Swift, Managing Director at CMA
With the recent increase in resteal incidents, Philip offered used car buyers five tips to avoid falling victim:
1. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is
2. Use official financial channels, never pay in cash
3. Invest in a complete vehicle provenance check before purchasing
4. Consider installing a tracking device
5. Have your car key reprogrammed by a specialist dealer, just as you would change the locks when moving into a new house.