Car buyers across Somerset are being warned to be extra cautious when purchasing vehicles online after Trading Standards exposed a scam.
Trading Standards was first alerted to the problem when several car buyers in the Somerset area said they had not received vehicles for which they had already paid by bank transfer.
There are, of course, a number of legalities to cover when running a car dealership, and key among keeping your business, customers, stock and premises safe is your motor trade insurance. You should also have a good level of road risks insurance to cover all legal eventualities.
The vehicles in question had been advertised online and had all the hallmarks of being placed by a legitimate dealer who had included an address and phone number.
The seller also listed two directors, both under Somerset addresses, and appeared to be run as a limited company. However, everything was fake, including the cars listed at very attractive prices to entice customers into parting with their cash. Delivery was promised too, but the cars never materialised.
However, after Trading Standards launched an investigation, it found that the company was merely a front for an organised criminal gang. Subsequent investigations traced the money to anonymous accounts based in central London and revealed a nationwide scam being operated by the gang.
Councillor David Hall, the deputy leader of Somerset County Council, said: "Scams of this kind are becoming increasingly common and increasingly sophisticated.
"I would urge potential car buyers to be careful when buying vehicles online. Many websites and adverts look very professional and it can be difficult to tell these apart from the genuine article.
"Often in these types of scam the fraudsters will claim to be local and consumers should try to see the car for themselves before purchase.
"By following a few simple rules including using a credit card which will give you better protection against shopping fraud, and using a trader who has signed up to a local member of the Buy With Confidence scheme, consumers can better protect themselves."