Scammers have assumed the name of a dormant used car dealership in Scotland and are conning consumers out of money for cars that don’t exist.
The criminals have set up a website dubbed ‘AD Car Sales‘ and are advertising suspiciously cheap used cars for sale on social media platforms.
The conmen have used the name of a used car dealership from Companies House that no longer has a showroom and added details of its directors to the website to make itself look legitimate.
The website says the showroom is based in Millie Street, Kirkcaldy, but local businesses nearby reported it is fictitious.
Car Dealer was made aware of the scam by a consumer who was promoting a 2016 Mini Countryman with 32,000 kilometers on the clock for sale at £4,770.
CAP HPI said the car was nearly half price and should have been on sale for around £10,000.
One consumer, who reported the scam to Car Dealer, said: ‘The cars are very cheap and I saw the advert on Facebook.
‘When I called they wanted me to pay a deposit to secure the car over the phone and that worried me.
‘It’s the reason I flagged the site with you.’
Michael Addison of MA Body Shop, based on Millie Road, Kirkcaldy – the same road the car dealership is supposedly located on – said ‘it’s a scam’.
‘We’ve had dozens of people turn up at our body shop looking for the car dealership,’ he told Car Dealer.
‘Many have paid deposits and are coming to look at a car that doesn’t exist. One guy came all the way from London to see the car that wasn’t there.
‘There’s no AD Car Sales site on Millie Road – it’s a scam.’
When Car Dealer called the number listed on the AD Car Sales website this morning and inquired about a vehicle for sale we were told it was ‘still available’.
However, the sales person wanted a deposit over the phone before we could look at it.
When we called again – this time a conversation caught on video which you can watch here – we asked if we could see the car and said we’d had trouble finding the showroom.
At that point the conman hung up and we haven’t been able to get through since.
Although much of the used car dealer’s website looks legitimate at first glance, there are clues that all is not quite what it seems.
When we reverse image searched the pictures of the directors, the image of Andrew Peter Diriano was actually one of a German actor, while the picture of Lorraine Doriano was from a generic picture of how to take a good passport photo.
There were 66 used car listings on the website, all with pictures taken at different locations – highly unusual for a car dealership as most are taken in the same style or same place.
The legitimate AD Car Sales LTD is listed on Companies House. It was formed in 2004 and has submitted micro business accounts for years.
Car Dealer contacted its accountant, Barry Grant, of Cunningham Grant Chartered Accountants, based in Cupar, Fife.
He said: ‘The directors are aware of this scam and there is an ongoing investigation.’
He confirmed that the legitimate business had been spoofed by the scammers and the directors were concerned.
The directors were offered the chance to comment further to Car Dealer Magazine.
Too good to be true
Jim Holder, editorial director of consumer motoring experts What Car? said: ‘We’d urge any potential buyer to pause if a deal looks too good to be true.
‘As always, if you think you are getting an incredible deal then take the time to consider why, and what the potential pitfalls might be.
‘Research the seller – if they don’t have any reviews from trusted sources then ask why? Likewise, why aren’t they selling their vehicles through reputable outlets such as Auto Trader or Heycar? If they say they are only doing local deals, ask for customer feedback.
‘And if you can’t get good answers to those questions then don’t send a deposit – and if they respond by refusing to let you even see the car before you send a deposit then, then walk away.
‘You wouldn’t hand hundreds of pounds to a stranger on the basis of a promise in any normal circumstance – and nor should you when you are buying a car.’
Nona Bowkis, a solicitor at motor trade legal experts Lawgistics, said there is little legitimate car dealers can do to stop this happening.
She said: ‘Without a crystal ball, there is not much dealers can do to stop this happening and so it is about reacting quickly to prevent reputational damage.
‘Dealers should put a notice on their website and social media channels to advise of the scam, plus report to both the police and Trading Standards who are there to protect the public from such scams.
‘In terms of being unfairly sued, the public messaging and reporting will help substantiate the defense that the matter is nothing to do with the innocent dealership.’
Car Dealer has reported the issue to Police Scotland.