In Malaysia, scams are more common than they should be.
The feeling of losing your money to a slippery con-artist can feel like being punched in the face.
Crooks live among us. They come in different forms and the warning signs are not always clear.
A survey led by telecommunication company Telenor Group in 2016, revealed that Malaysians are extremely gullible when it comes to scams, specifically the online kind. 46 per cent of respondents from Malaysia admitted to being victims of Internet scams and Malaysia leads among the countries surveyed (which included India, Singapore and Thailand). The study concluded that one in 5 Malaysians had been victims of Internet auction scams or online dating scams!
Scamming is a HUGE industry and when it comes to car sales in Malaysia, if you're looking to buy or sell vehicles, it's worth mentioning that you should stay sharp!
In many cases, victims of scams claim that second-hand cars were either stolen vehicles, had been involved in accidents or had not been approved by PUSPAKOM. Of course, there are plenty of other sneakier methods used by dodgy fellas nationwide and whether you're dealing with a dealership or a private party, you're at risk!
In fact, when it comes to car sales in Malaysia, scam cases can get pretty intense. In 2015, a ‘Datuk Seri’ and ’Datuk’ had allegedly cheated 126 people into selling their luxury vehicles after claiming they are from a reputable company dealing in used cars.
Buying a used car can be a great way to save a lot of money in the short and long run but be careful, it isn't always all rainbows and sunshine.
Here are a few popular car scams used to fool unsuspecting victims and how you can safeguard yourself from falling prey. Let’s help everyone avoid used car scams!
The picture of the car can be very, very different from the real thing
If you wanna sell your car online, you need to the best pictures that you can take of your vehicle. It’s only natural, right?
However, some champions have the intention of deceiving buyers through unrealistic images of the car. In fact, it might not even be pictures of the car they're selling!
Some pictures may be deliberately framed to hide certain issues or any shortcomings that the car may have. Dishonest sellers may also just steal pictures off the Internet in order to advertise a vehicle that is far worse in comparison.
If the car looks too picture perfect in the pictures, well, it's already an indication that you need to be on guard. Arm yourself with knowledge about the vehicle by talking to existing owners or heading to forums. Next, you'll need to scrutinise every detail to try and make sure that everything checks out. Watch out for any irregularities or common problems and if you're unsatisfied with what you see, it's time to fall back!
Prices that are too good to be true
If there's one thing us Malaysians can’t seem to turn down, it's a good deal! Unfortunately, there are scammers who are well aware of this too. Online classifieds can bring transparency to what the general market expects of particular cars. In fact, genuine sellers should at least perform market checks online to determine a reasonable selling price for their own vehicle so if anyone is willing to price a car much lower than usual, beware!
This type of scam typically involves rushing prospective purchasers, telling them that there's already a confirmed buyer who is going to pay a deposit soon (sound familiar?)
You'll have no choice but to wire transfer funds as a deposit if you want to secure the purchase. Once you hand over the money, the seller disappears with your hard-earned cash.
In one instance earlier this year in 2019, at least 30 people learnt the hard way that if a deal is too good to be true, it's most likely a scam. Placing deposits ranging between a few hundred ringgit and RM7,000 to book secondhand vehicles which were supposedly sold at half the market rate on an e-marketplace site, many of these victims went to the car dealership in Kepong which the scammer claimed to represent, only to find out they had been duped.
In another case 2 years ago, a man was arrested for deceiving 80 individuals into buying bogus cheap cars. The suspect was believed to advertise cheap cars on social media and victims would make deposits that ranged between RM500 and RM3000 before the scammer finally told them there were other buyers willing to pay the full amount. He would then disappear with their down payments.
Take your time. Research market rates and don't limit your searches to just classifieds. Explore forums, arm yourself with credible knowledge and speak to owners of the same car model to establish a better idea of how much you should be paying. All the while, your potential scammer may become impatient and that alone might be enough for them to start looking for someone else to fool.
Prices for older, classic or collectable cars could be determined if you participate in classic car meets or convoys. Owners may be happy to share their knowledge and you might learn a thing or two (including the value of the car).
Using brute force to ‘steal’ your car
Believe it or not, there have even been cases of scam artists using brute force as a tactic during test drives. Victims selling their cars have reported being tricked into taking their vehicles for "test drives" and once they're on the road, the so-called buyer stops the car halfway and pushes the victim out! Not only could victims end up with injuries, but their beloved cars could also be gone from their lives forever with nothing to show for it.
Bring a buddy when you go to meet a potential buyer. Thugs are usually less prone to doing anything too rash once they see you have someone with you. In fact, the more people you bring the better. This should discourage criminals enough that they back off.
Second-hand car buyers and sellers should always take photographs of whoever they enter into transactions with as this would help with identification if the deal ever goes sour.
The Fluctuating Odometer
So, you're on the lookout for a used car online with a budget that doesn't exactly match your preferences (to say the least). The further you scroll, the more you realise that what you're looking for is almost impossible to find on the market. With the budget you have, you’d be fortunate to get your hands on a car that looks like its been through a zombie apocalypse.
Suddenly, it feels like your prayers have been answered!
You find a car that's actually within your budget and looks just like what you are looking for. It may be slightly older but the kilometres indicate that it's practically untouched by its previous owner. You excitedly arrange for an appointment. Turns out, the digital odometer reads the exact mileage as was advertised.
You buy that beauty in a heartbeat and couldn't be gladder that you did!
Sorry, but tampering with a digital odometer is one of the simplest scams in the book. A laptop can be hooked up to the odometer and software can be used to reset the mileage to show whatever the scammer wants.
Make sure you go through the vehicle’s service history, check the mileage for each year and make sure that it steadily increases. Sometimes, private sellers change the mileage when you first look at the car and then reset it after the purchase so make sure the mileage is the same as when you first test drove it.
There's also always the possibility of forged documents when it comes to buying or selling second-hand cars. In some instances, cars that are due for scrappage after the vehicle’s Certificate of Entitlement (COE) expires (usually from other countries) might be transported here by organised syndicates and these smuggled cars might just be given downright fake documents to sell back as legit used cars.
Ask for the vehicle's Puspakom inspection forms when purchasing a car. This indicates that an inspection was, in fact, done and nothing is too unusual about the vehicle you're about to purchase. If a Puspakom inspection hasn't been performed yet, it's best to insist that the car is inspected before any deposit is made.
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