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Fraud Warnings

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

When Buying

Check the current market value

If the car you are looking at is more than 15% below the current market value for trade or private, there will usually be a good reason for it. Fraudsters will often place adverts on that site that are on sale for ? of what they could be. I.e If a 2009 Defender is on for sale at £4600, chances are the car doesn’t exist. Please be wary of adverts without telephone numbers, you should always be able to speak and see the car before you purchase.
Meet in a suitable place
On private buys, arrange to view the car at the seller's house so that you can be more certain it isn't stolen.

ALWAYS view the car before you purchase it

You'd be amazed how many people send money online for a car they haven't even seen: how do they know it even exists? Keep your hand on your wallet until you see the colour of the metal. If the seller gives you any reason at all for why you can’t view the car, do not proceed with the sale.

Fake Escrow/Transport 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.

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 fraud@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 fraud@pistonheads.com for investigation.

They have also previously used the following e-mails:
Scammers are using the PistonHeads name to attempt to lure you into parting with your money.

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.

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 fraud@pistonheads.com.

Wire Transfer Scam

Scammers ask you to send the value of the car they are selling via wire-transfer, usually through Amazon Payments, Western Union or a fake Ebay Secure page. Ebay do not organise payment what so ever, if you are directed to an eBay listing, please report it to them.

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

Phishers try to separate you from your hard-earned cash by using official-looking emails or SMS texts which contain a link, designed to capture your login and bank account information. Please always check any links that are sent via email, ensuring they direct to a PistonHeads.com page. You can also check the “reply to” email address, and if it is anything but an @pistonheads.com, em.pistonheads.com or @haymarket.com address, DO NOT reply.

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 with a variety of topics, the latest of which are listed below. The scam starts with a "feeler" email sent through our classifieds system, this will be vague and they may even ask you questions which the answers to are in your advert. Once you have replied to this email, your email address is harvested and a Phishing email will be sent straight to you. The most common email addresses which do this are @Comcast.net, @Gmail.com addresses which contain a + symbol and finally @outlook.com addresses (though not all). If you aren't sure of an email you have received, you can contact us to verify it.

Popular phishing email topics

- PistonHeads Worldpay Issued Chargeback
- I've seen a topic about you on the forums, I just want to know if it is true?
- Your advert will be removed within 24 hours if you do not update your security information
- Payment not complete, please re enter your card details.
- Your price has dropped by 50%, can you confirm this is your car?

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

If you entered your information, you will need to change your password as soon as possible. Please ensure your password is completely different to that of your last. If your email account or any other online account has shared the same password, this will need to be updated too. It has been known that fraudsters can and will compromise email accounts because the user has used the same password Whilst all this seems annoying at the time - these simple steps really will save you time (and potentially money) in the long run. If you cannot log into your account then please let us know and we will reset your password and let you know. If you think your email account has been compromised as a result of a phishing email from any site, please contact your provider and remove any forwarding addresses.

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


NEVER ACCEPT PAYMENT FOR MORE THAN THE AGREED PRICE. These scams usually involve faked PayPal 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

Car Cloning

Somebody puts your reg number on their car and uses it for nefarious purposes. Technically it should be impossible to buy registration plates without proof of ownership, but 'show only' plates are available if you know where to look. If someone asks for a copy of your V5C before meeting you, do not give them it. All you need to complete a vehicle provenance check, is the registration of the car. You can usually spot these scams as they are written in broken English and ask for the following

- Up close pictures of the underneath of the car
- V5 documentation
- VIN Number

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 Italy.



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 Fraud@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 Fraud@pistonheads.com and we will be happy to help.