We are so used to buying and selling online these days that we can become quite blasé about the potential dangers. But when what you are buying and selling is something as valuable and as necessary to your business as a truck for your delivery work, then you need to think twice before clicking that mouse.
Don’t get me wrong, there are, of course, plenty of honest, scrupulous buyers and sellers out there who want to do legitimate business with you. But the reality is that with the increase in online shopping, there is also a growing number of criminal groups using the web to scam honest business people out of their cash.
Here are some top tips and scams to look out for in order to stay safe when buying and selling online.
It may sound obvious but the most important advice I can give anyone buying a truck online is: make sure you physically see the vehicle and check it over before parting with any cash. And when I say ‘any’ cash, I include any requests for ‘shipping fees’, ‘payment protection’ or ‘refundable deposits’. These are all common scams for getting buyers to part with money in advance for a truck that may well never have existed.
My next piece of advice is: never buy a vehicle for delivery work without test driving it and checking all its documentation. There are scams out there involving false V5C documents and altered VIN numbers so be certain that the documents are original (not photocopies). Just to make sure, examine the MOT certificates and the service history to make sure that everything matches up (especially the mileage!).
It’s a good idea to try to view a truck at the seller’s home. That way you can confirm that the address on the V5C is correct, and that the person you are dealing with is, in fact, the recorded keeper.
Lastly, when you are buying a vehicle that’s been used for delivery work it’s always worth doing a history check to ensure that the truck hasn’t been stolen, written off or has unpaid finance attached to it.
There are certain aspects of selling a truck online which can expose you to two types of potential criminals. The first is a thief who, if left alone with the vehicle and the keys, will physically steal it. The second is a con artist running a payment scam.
To avoid the first, you just need to use some common sense. Don’t leave a potential buyer alone with your truck and its keys. Always take the keys out of the ignition. Don’t allow a buyer to test drive your vehicle alone. Don’t hand over the truck and documents until you have either cash in your hand or cleared funds in your bank.
Payment scams are more difficult to spot so you’ll need to be vigilant. One of the most common is to persuade a seller to pay a shipment fee in advance.
If you are accepting cash, then receive the payment in a bank where you can instantly deposit the money and it will be checked for counterfeit notes.
If you accept a cheque, always make sure the funds have cleared and are ‘irrevocable’ before you hand over the vehicle (counterfeit cheques can take weeks to be detected by your bank and you could find yourself without a truck or payment). Be careful of ‘refund’ scams which involve writing a cheque for too much money, then asking for a refund, for a cheque that never clears.
Stay aware and alert and there’s no need to worry, buying and selling online can be a quick and easy way of acquiring new vehicles or moving on those you no longer need.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching delivery work with available drivers. Over 4,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.