Spams and scams which stop my flipping fortune


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LRM Technical Editor, Ed Evans, recently took the plunge on a cheap Freelander. So what's stopping Tom? : credit: © Ed Evans
Market News from LRM expert, Tom Barnard

As it’s my job to keep a close eye on the Land Rover market, I’m always amused when I see a car selling for £5000 at an auction on a Saturday and then advertised for £10,000 on the Monday. It’s usually listed by a dealer who hasn’t even collected it from the sale yet and will feature the same pictures and description used by the auction house.

Presuming the dealers actually sell at these prices, there is clearly real money to be made by spotting bargains and then flipping them. I don’t begrudge these traders their earnings either, as the profit is usually made by using their years of experience to source cars, prepare and then market them properly.

For example, I spotted a 2000 Freelander which had no MoT and hadn’t moved for three years sell at an auction for £320. That’s cheap enough anyway, but it was part of a probate sale being sold alongside the deceased’s furniture. It was the only car under the hammer that day, looked sad out in the car park on its own, and most of the buyers were there for grandfather clocks and sideboards.

Clean up that Freelander, get it an MoT and the 50,000-mile car would sell easily on a forecourt or online sales site for £2500. All it takes is a little knowledge and graft to turn a decent profit.

But there’s a reason I haven’t used the knowledge I’ve gained by studiously looking at adverts for Land Rovers all day to make a fortune flipping cars. I am writing this from a poky room which smells of damp rather than supping cocktails on my yacht, because I love buying cars but can’t bear selling them.

I don’t mean that I have hoarding instincts, but rather that I find the whole process very stressful. Placing an advert for a car on a public forum seems to be like spinning a roulette wheel where the only prize is some form of random grief and wasted time.

Within minutes of placing an advert there are inevitably messages using an odd combination of letters and numbers offering half the asking price and saying they can be at my door within minutes with a wedge of cash. By the time I do get a genuine enquiry, my heckles are up so far that I’m rude enough to scare them off.

But while the ‘WOTZ UR BEST PRCE M8’ traders are irritating enough, it’s the scammers and cloners which are really ruining the whole buying and selling game for us all. If you are a vendor, you are naturally suspicious of anyone asking for a registration number, VIN or photo of the V5. And rightly so. But it does make it tricky for an honest buyer to do the necessary checks before viewing a car.

If you are a seller, you must be even more careful at every stage of the process. Reader Grahame Tobin was contacted by a man calling himself Robert about a Discovery he had for sale. Robert said he would pay full asking price for the car, but since he was in France, it would have to be collected by his shipping agent. Grahame smelled a rat but went along with it, supplying details of a bank account as requested and awaited the transfer of a deposit. He didn’t hold his breath.

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The so-called buyer then changed his tune, Grahame explains. “I had an email from him overnight now saying he can only pay by cheque, which I am taking as a ruse so he has both my bank account details and also my address to make it easier to steal my identity.”

Grahame then stopped bothering with the fake Frenchman, but other sellers might not be so lucky. There are other variations of the scam where the buyer does wire the money over, then says the exchange rate calculation means they have overpaid and asks for a partial refund by bank transfer. Once they have it, the original wire is reversed, and you are left out of pocket.

Then there are the buyers who turn up at your house and go through the whole process of checking the car and agreeing a price. They do the paperwork and let you see their banking app, showing the funds have been transferred. The amount doesn’t arrive in your account but, under pressure, you trust them and let them take the car. Only too late do you realise the app was a clever fake – and your loss won’t be covered by insurance.

The other nasty nobble is to have two or more people looking at the car. While one distracts you, the other slips some oil in the coolant or pulls a lead to produce an expensive-looking fault. They then try to knock a grand or so off the price.

The only answer for me, it seems, is to buy a house with a barn so I can buy and store more Land Rovers without ever having to sell them. I can’t afford that yet, but I’m sure it won’t be too long before I’m offered millions of dollars to help an exotic princess manage her inheritance.


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