Scammers target used car sellers

By Mai Al Abria — MUSCAT: Dec. 19: Second-hand car trading is now a breeze thanks in part to online platforms like OLX, but the Royal Oman Police (ROP) is urging increased vigilance in the face of an uptick in scams involving used car transactions.
The Observer has learnt of instances of car-owners being scammed of their vehicles once they have their car details posted on such portals. The modus operandi employed by fraudsters is simple. After a test-drive, the scammer posing as a prospective buyer expresses a desire to purchase the vehicle put up for sale, makes a small down payment, and then persuades the owner to let him keep the vehicle for a couple of days.
He sets a date for the formal handover and completion of formalities, but vanishes without a trace. Take the example of Abdulrahman al Maamari who had posted details of his car on one such popular online e-commerce site. “An interested buyer called to request a test drive and an examination of the vehicle,” said Abdulrahman.
“Once we agreed on a price, the buyer gave me a down payment of RO 200 and promised to turn up the following day at the ROP Traffic Department for the change of name and to settle the outstanding. But this guy just didn’t show up.”
With a lot of effort, Abdulrahman managed to get details about the person and file a case against him for breach of trust. The matter is still in court, and Abdulrahman despairs he will not get his car back.
According to the Royal Oman Police, con-artists employ several schemes to scam sellers out of their vehicles.
Not very long ago, the ROP had launched an aggressive public service campaign seeking to warn motorists about the dangers of leaving their vehicles unattended, with engines idling, even for brief moments.
Similar awareness efforts by the ROP have emphasised the importance of adhering to safe and legal procedures when buying or selling cars.
Another modus operandi used by crooks is to disassemble stolen vehicles and sell valuable spares within or outside the Sultanate.
Some smuggle stolen vehicles across the border, say experts.
Some useful guidelines to consider when meeting with prospective buyers are as follows: Schedule the meeting during the day in a public area, such as the parking lot of a mall or bank; Park the car in a high traffic area where people can see you. Complete a ‘bill of sale’ along with a “release of liability” form to provide proof of the transfer and to protect yourself from any future tickets, violations or other problems with the vehicle.