PistonHeads.com Forum

PistonHeads is a member of VSTAG - the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group. Up-to-date advice on staying safe while buying or selling a car can always be found on the website: www.vstag.co.uk

The criminal element are always keen to exploit car buyers and sellers, so familiarise yourself with the following scams:


A Phishing Scam currently being attempted via our site, please read Phishing Emails

PistonHeads Buyer Protection & PistonHeads Secure Payments

Fraudulent sellers claim to be acting on behalf of PistonHeads and attempt to offer potential buyers a secure and safe way to buy a car. Please be aware that PistonHeads DOES NOT offer a secure payment service and you should not take the transaction any further if you are invited to complete the sale in this way. The only service offered by PistonHeads is a place to advertise cars - we do not get involved with payment handling in any way.

The suggestion to use the fraudulent PistonHeads payment service is usually offered via e-mail, and is sent using an official-looking e-mail that mentions PistonHeads throughout. Again, we stress that this is not genuine and you should not proceed. If you are ever in doubt about whether or not an e-mail is genuine, please forward it to adverts@pistonheads.com for confirmation.

Occasionally fraudulent advertisers will ask you to call PistonHeads directly to confirm sale or transaction details. The number provided will often start with 0800. PistonHeads does not provide an 0800 telephone service, so if invited to call a number like this, the only call you should make is to 08720 551 551 to alert us of the potential scam.

If a car you are interested in is suddenly removed from the site please be aware that this may be because the advert is fraudulent. A seller will not usually remove an advert until the deal has been done, so be on your guard if a seller claims to have removed an advert because they believe you will buy the car.

If an advert shows the message 'rejected by PistonHeads' it means that PistonHeads staff have removed the advert, rather than the seller (and the removal could be for a variety of reasons). Please contact us if you are suspicious, or to confirm anything relating to the advert you are viewing.

These scams are usually advertising a car that is priced significantly below market value. If something seems too good to be true it usually is.

We are currently aware of a fraudulent e-mail being sent from the following address: membership@pistonheads-support.com and pistonheads@insurer.com These are NOT genuine PistonHeads emails and any communication received from them should be forwarded to adverts@pistonheads.com for investigation.

They have also previously used the following e-mails:

When Buying

"Please Contact Me Outside The PistonHeads System" Scam

This scam will have an advert that asks you to contact the seller "outside the PistonHeads System" or they claim to be unable to receive e-mails through PistonHeads. They will also commonly have text in the images claiming the same thing. This is a scam.

"Please follow the link for further info and contact details" Scam

Whilst our dealers are allowed to place links to their website within adverts, please do NOT follow any links which are designed in a way to look like a part of the PistonHeads website. We have been made aware of scamners asking people to visit websites such as http://pistonheads.zymichost.com to find further contact details. This is just another ploy for you to make contact outside the PistonHeads system. May we stress again that we do NOT take custody of any car on our website!

When you contact them, they will claim to be out of the country and that PistonHeads is selling the car for them. The scammer then sends you an e-mail from a range of different e-mail addresses that look like they're from PistonHeads, such as salesteam@securepayments-pistonheads.com. The victim wires the money, thinking they're talking to PistonHeads, and are told their vehicle will be delivered in a few weeks.

Always contact the seller through the PistonHeads classifieds. We keep record of the initial contact between buyer and seller and can warn buyers when they have contacted a scammer. If you contact them outside of PistonHeads, we can't do that, and that's specifically why they ask you to contact them directly. Also remember that PistonHeads does not sell cars for anyone.

Moved to Malmo, Sweden Scam

A scam where a car is placed on our classifieds section; the owners claim to be 'a nice retired couple' who have recently moved home to Sweden. The e-mail is usually accompanied by a picture of the notional couple. This is a scam.

These 'sellers' arrange to meet you in the UK (normally Liverpool), but request you transfer a large sum of money as insurance for the meeting. The money is transferred to them - usually through an insecure method like Western Union money transfer, but they never show up and your deposit is lost.

Armed Robbery

There have been cases where buyers looking for a particular model have placed wanted ads on the internet. The advertiser has then been contacted by e-mail or phone and offered a car matching the specification required. The buyer is then requested to meet the seller and to take cash.

Upon arrival the buyer is met by armed men and forced to hand over the cash.

It sounds obvious, but even experienced motor traders have been taken in by plausible stories like this. NEVER AGREE TO TAKE CASH WITH YOU. Also, ask for enough details of the car to satisfy your curiosity that the car is in their possession and that they are familiar with it (particularly if it's a specialist car).

There has recently been a resurgence in this kind of crime across all car classified websites. Please use caution and if you are in any doubt about a seller then contact us via adverts@pistonheads.com.

Wire Transfer Scam

Scammers ask you to send the value of the car they are selling via wire-transfer to yourself or another trusted person and then send them a copy of the receipt or various other details to prove you have the funds to pay.

This is supposedly to avoid time-wasters but in reality they then use this information to impersonate you and withdrawn the cash without your consent.

PistonHeads Purchase Protection Scam

Scammers are using the PistonHeads name to attempt to lure you into parting with your money.

This is a variation on the Fake Escrow Scam detailed below, with the twist that the Escrow site pretends to be associated with PistonHeads and that the seller is supposedly verified by PistonHeads.

More information can be found in the news piece: HERE

PistonHeads has notified the relevant authorities and has requested that the website the scammers use be closed down. In the meantime please be on your guard and be aware that Pistonheads do not offer an approved seller scheme, nor do we offer payment or transaction protection.

If in any doubt note that PistonHeads correspondance will only ever be sent from an e-mail address ending @pistonheads.com - PistonHeads will never be involved in the holding of cars or the transfer of money.

Fake Escrow Scams

This fraud revolved around the scammer setting up a fake website offering Escrow services.

Escrow services act as a third party in a long distance sale, A genuine Escrow Service allows sellers to send goods safe in the knowledge that funds exist and are being held safely until the goods have been delivered. In turn, the buyer can feel secure in that the car can be seen, checked for suitability/condition and the money will be paid over only when this is confirmed to the Escrow Service. In this scam however, the fake Escrow site is run by the "seller" and is therefore not the safe place for your money that it appears to be.

When used with car sales the "seller" normally asks for money to be paid into a specific Escrow service before they will bring the car for you to view. Costs of shipping the car from one country to another, or problems wih timewasters are commonly used excuses for wanting to use an Escrow service. Once the money is paid to the Escrow service it will immediately be transfered out by the "seller" who will disappear, never to be seen again.

The fraud can also work the other way: a fraudulent buyer can attempt to trick a seller into handing over a car that hasn't been paid for by simply sending an official-looking e-mail from a fake escrow service stating that funds have been received and to go ahead with the transfer of the vehicle. The scammer will disappear with the car and the fake escrow service will string the seller along for long enough for them to make a clean get-away.

While genuine Ecscrow services can be a good precaution, you should be EXTREMELY wary of anyone who insists on using a particular site. NEVER follow links given in e-mails, always navigate to the site yourself via a search engine. Check out any site VERY carefully before using it, The fake websites can be extremely hard to spot. Several sites (including eBay) maintain lists of genuine Escrow services which should always be checked.

If in any doubt, do not send any money to anyone. There are always plenty more cars on the market which are not scams. if it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

"Quick Sale Required"

A scam that involves con artists claiming to have a reason for selling very, very quickly. Sometimes this is to do with a claim that they've had to move out to mainland Europe at short notice they say the are in a rush to sell and that the car is cheaply priced because of that.

Bargain cars always attract a lot of responses, especially via e-mail. The fraudsters then try to get potential buyers to send large deposits to secure either delivery of the car or to be the first to look at it. The car probably doesn't even exist - often the pictures have the number plates blanked out or inconsistencies. IF THE PRICE OF A CAR SEEMS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE - TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! If anyone's ever in a hurry to sell a car they can sell it to a dealer at a knockdown price rather than punt it around the internet.

Private Registration Scam

The scam begins with an advert for a private registration plate, and ends with you buying a number plate that’s worth only the plastic it’s written on.

The scam works in one of two ways:

Either the number plate never belonged to the seller, s/he has simply sent you a plate that bears no legal relevance and you receive no retention or transfer documents relating to it.

Or, the registration plate is legally endorsed and is sent with the retention certificate; meanwhile the original owner reports the registration as stolen. Subsequently, the plate you’ve received is rendered obsolete and worthless.

To avoid becoming a victim please insure you receive the correct documentation and that the authorities are informed of any changes.

When Selling

PistonHeads Phishing E-mails

If you ever receive an email informing you that your card details have not been processed, we can confirm that this is a phishing email. Our payments are processed securely by WorldPay, we do not store payment details on the website, so any request to re-enter them will be fraudulent. If you do enter them on the page, you will need to cancel your card immediately and request a replacement.

We are aware of a large number of e-mails being sent from a variety of e-mail addresses, claiming "I am highly interested to purchase right away but first of all please help me clear my doubts. I found a topic on the pistonheads forum that regards you personally. I would rather hear it from you than trust the forum discussion. Here is the topic: [link]"

The link directs you to a fake version of our login page in an attempt to steal your username and password.

If you logged into the account then we would advise you to login to PistonHeads through: http://www.pistonheads.com/members/ and then click on Change Password on the left and follow the instructions.

It would be advisable to do this immediately. If you cannot log into your account then please let us know and we will reset your password and let you know.

If you have not logged into the fake address then you do not need to worry. We are working with the authorities to remove this site.

Buyer Waiting Scam

Rather than being carried out via e-mail, this scam is done over the phone.

Scammers are calling sellers, telling them they have a buyer for their car with money ready, but the seller just needs to pay a £4.99 fee over the phone with a debit card first.

The sting in the tail with this scam is that they then go ahead and withdraw as much money as possible from the victim's account, emptying it completely if not stopped.

We advise that you are very wary about any company phoning up claiming to have buyers waiting as soon as you make a payment. Even if they do not intend to empty your bank account, genuine companies will not require upfront payment from the seller and you are likely to be left out of pocket waiting for imaginary buyers to get in touch.

Foreign Buyers/Agents

The most common scam attempted via the internet is of a foreign buyer or agent wanting to buy your car or bike, despite not having seen it. They say they'll agree to the asking price. The details of the scam vary, but usually start with asking for your name, address and sometimes bank details.

Sadly, you need to be suspicious of any buyers from Africa for this reason. Sometimes these scams also originate in the Netherlands.



NEVER ACCEPT PAYMENT FOR MORE THAN THE AGREED PRICE. These scams usually involve faked cheques or bank transfers that exceed the agreed amount. The criminals request that you send them the difference when they discover the 'mistake'. Subsequently the banks then discover that the cheques were fake or that the bank transfer wasn't of valid funds and debit your account leaving you out of pocket.

PayPal Scam

The legitimate seller is e-mailed by an interested "buyer" or scammers. The scammers suggest making payment through the secure payment site PayPal, and claim to have transferred the agreed sum into the seller's PayPal account. However, they've actually transferred nothing. The scammers say PayPal is holding the money until they've received the goods. It is likely you'll receive e-mails that claim to be from PayPal - they'll look authentic and reassure you that it's safe to proceed. These are fake


PayPal does not hold funds until an item is sent.
Beware of fake PayPal e-mails.
Follow the PH golden rule: trade face to face.
E-mail adverts@pistonheads.com if you have any doubts.

More Information

VSTAG and Action Fraud

The Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group (VSTAG) website www.vstag.co.uk contains up-to-date information on everything relating to buying or selling a car and also offers advice on what to do when things go wrong. The website www.actionfraud.police.uk allows victims to report individual frauds, these are then added to a national database with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Alternatively e-mail adverts@pistonheads.com and we will be happy to help.