Your car’s been recalled: motorists warned about new car theft scam
JOHANNESBURG - A local insurance company has issued a warning to car owners about a new modus operandi in which motorists are being scammed into handing their car over to criminals under the pretense that it has been recalled.
According to King Price, the client receives a phone call, as well as a follow-up e-mail, from a phony dealership claiming that a safety recall was in place and that the company was sending a flatbed truck to collect the person’s car. This is made to seem very legit, as the scamster knows the client’s registration number and other personal details.
The insurer said that in the last few months there had been an “alarming rise” in the number of theft syndicates trying to con motorists into handing over their car keys, or even their personal information.
Also quite worrying is that many insurers won’t pay out for a vehicle theft that took place through fraud such as this, so the onus is on the car owner to ensure that the keys are never handed over to the wrong person.
“Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated. By targeting dealership records, they often have detailed info about you, like when last you took your car for a service and even how many kilometres you drive per month," said Jacques Victor of King Price.
“So they really sound slick and convincing when they call you”.
The insurer has the following tips for consumers to avoid being scammed:
1. If someone calls you claiming that your car is subject to a recall, contact the manufacturer or nearest dealer immediately. In the case of a genuine recall, the manufacturer will send you formal communication that describes the process in detail, the steps to follow, and how to verify what’s happening at every stage.
2. Under no circumstances should you hand over your car to a third party. If there’s a genuine recall, a car manufacturer won’t collect your car themselves, as the liability and risks are too high.
3. Never give out your personal information, or make any kind of payment, to anyone claiming to be from a car dealership or manufacturer. End the call or delete the email, and call the nearest dealership. Or the police.
Related story: Beware of phone-in car recall scammers
The insurance Crime Bureau (ICB) has issued a vehicle recall scam alert following a significant increase in the number of such cases.
“Criminals execute a recall scam by contacting unsuspecting vehicle owners and posing as officials representing a car manufacturer - convincing the owners that their vehicle is part of a batch being recalled due to serious malfunctions,” says Maanda Tshifularo, the head of Dialdirect Insurance.
“With the promise of a repaired or replacement vehicle, many people buy into this scam and end up losing tens, or even hundreds of thousands of rand.”
Garth de Klerk, chief executive of the ICB, says initial contact is usually made by phone, where a criminal posing as an official tells victims their vehicle is being recalled.
“This is often followed-up with a spoof email, with criminals going to great lengths to make their communication seem official. They convince vehicle owners that they shouldn’t drive their vehicle under any circumstances and make arrangements to collect it - often using a tow truck,” says De Klerk.
A few days later, the owner would typically phone the dealership for an update, only to discover that the vehicle has in fact been stolen.
These crimes, where millions have been lost, are likely driven by single or multiple syndicates. The end market of these syndicates varies, with some of the vehicles cloned and re-sold locally, and others, often high-end vehicles, taken across the border or shipped to other countries and sold there.
De Klerk says that it’s surprisingly easy for criminals to get profiling details of an individual and the car they drive, due to people often sharing too much information through social media platforms and by phone - mostly through fake “market research calls”.
Dialdirect and the ICB offer the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:
* Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media and on phones. Criminals use this to build a detailed profile.
* Be vigilant and maintain a healthy sense of scepticism when talking to strangers. Make every effort to verify that they are indeed who they say they are, and that they are an employee of the company they claim to represent.
* Check with the manufacturer and/or dealership directly to verify that the recall is legitimate. Don't trust contact details provided by the person who called you.
* Report any suspicious calls to the authorities, the manufacturer and/or the dealership. In the case of a genuine recall, the manufacturer will send you formal communication that describes the process in detail, the steps to follow, and how to verify what's happening at every stage.
* Under no circumstances should you hand over your car to a third party. If there's a genuine recall, a car manufacturer won't collect your car themselves, as the liability and risks are too high.
“It’s wise to remember that there could always be a scamster somewhere, trying to separate you from your vehicle or hard-earned money. Always be alert, don’t trust too easily and do your homework, especially when large amounts of money or valuable possessions are concerned,” says Tshifularo.