Fake car dealers feature imageFake car dealers feature image

News

Updated: Is this used car dealer fake? List of known car dealer scams and how to spot them

  • These are the fake used car dealers we’ve uncovered so far
  • Criminals pretend to be legitimate dealerships but use the cover to con buyers
  • Here’s our advice on how to spot a fake car dealer and what to do if you’ve been conned
Advert

Time 7:16 am, March 30, 2023

First published: February 8; Most recent update: August 30, 13:13 with news of a new suspected fake car dealership.


Car Dealer Magazine has been investigating the rise of fake car dealers that are actively conning consumers out of cash.

Since September 2022, Car Dealer has been unveiling these criminal car dealers with national newspapers and the BBC following up on our quest.


We are regularly contacted by concerned members of the motor trade and consumers, highlighting new suspicious dealerships and we investigate every report.

You can now check if the car your looking at could be a scam with this checker, created in partnership between Brego and Car Dealer.

In this post, we aim to detail those fake car dealers we already know about in an attempt to help warn consumers of these criminal gangs and the motor trade of their prevalence.


Suzuki car dealer Robin Luscombe told the Car Dealer Podcast that ‘every single legitimate car dealer should be sharing these stories to warn others of the con and promote proper dealerships’. It’s hard to argue with him.

If you have spotted a suspicious dealership website, send the Car Dealer team a tip off here and our investigations team will look into it and add it to our list of known cons.

Is this used car dealer real?

As it stands (August 30, 2023), Car Dealer has investigated 22 car dealerships.

Further down this post you can read our tips on how to spot them. The names of the fake car dealers, or businesses we have serious concerns about, include:

Martin Ford Auction – August 2023

Martin Ford Auction is a scam website, a duplicate of Peter Scott Auctions mentioned below.

The website martinford.auction offers cars that it claims have been seized by the police and are therefore available at bargain price.

It also offers a paid subscription to bid on these vehicles. Both of these websites have operated for months and TrustPilot reviews show buyers continue to fall for the convincing set up.

Car Sales Distribution – August 2023

This fake car dealer is operating from the website car-sales-distribution.com using the real business details of a business in Ireland.

Not only are the vehicles way under even trade value, the testimonials have been stolen from a variety of genuine car dealer websites and other content of the website is also lifted from across the internet.


Car Dealer was also contacted by the real business, who operates in a small trade capacity without a website of their own, after conned car buyers asked for their money back.

SR Vans – August 2023

This business was unusual in that it operated on eBay and Gumtree, selling bargain used cars without a website front.

It threw up red flags for consumers when they saw that the company had only recently incorporated. It had created a fake business profile on Google using the associated address.

Buyers who had paid by bank transfer for vehicles that were never delivered had been turning up at the location to find out SR Vans weren’t there.

The associated profiles on eBay and Google were removed by the companies.

Peter Scott Auctions – June 2023

The Peter Scott Auctions website claims to offer cars seized by the police for sale at auction. However, we’ve been able to find the real cars for sale with legitimate dealers for much more realistic prices.

Peterscott.auction has made it harder for consumers by removing the registrations from all images and sharing very little information on it’s website.

It also asks bidders to pay a registration fee of £9.95 direct into the owners bank account as what appears to be another mini scam. There are lots of red flags that saw this website reported to us, offering free delivery, 14 day money back guarantee and really cheap cars.

Done Spanners – May 2023

Done Spanners is another website using the same website seen by Elvaron and Silantlea Limited, claiming to be a long running online auction for bargain cars.

They are even using some of the same stock twice and exactly the same design and content.

The website owners have a convincing 299 point check for their vehicles and claim to have many happy customers but this is other case of the same scam.

Premium Auto Sales Ltd – May 2023

We were alerted to this website by a number of consumers who spotted its similarities to other websites listed on this page. In fact the content of the website appears to be largely copied from the now shut down Perth Vehicles, which caught so many people out.

The address used this time is for a residential property, and should be a red flag for consumers when they claim to have so many cars in stock. They’ve also used stock images of people they claim work at the dealership.

All of the vehicles are shown at much lower than market value and all of the photos are taken in different locations too.

Used Car Sales Ltd – May 2023

This website usedcarsales-ltd.com pretends to offer reposessed vehicles ‘at a fraction of the price’, when actually the images are stolen from various other car listings around the internet. The look of the website uses a popular template used by fake car dealers and offers very low price vehicles.

Unlike other scam websites there is very little extra information available on the website. There is a simple about us page insisting they work on volume of cheap sales even though the cars advertised rarely change.

They have used legitimate company numbers and address but there is little else to go on from the website.

Silantlea Limited – May 2023

Car Dealer was alerted to this website by a consumer who saw similarities between Silentlea and the previous Elvaron Limited car auction.

Elvaron Limited has now been shut down and Silantlea quickly popped up with exactly the same website under a new name.

Unlike other websites mentioned on this page, these website pretend to be an auction offering bargain cars whether you bid or pay the buy it now price.

Elvaron Limited – May 2023

Elvaron Limited uses a new format where it offers consumers bargain auction prices for cars. On its website elvaron-ltd.co.uk users are asked to pay a minimum £2,000 to subscribe to the website and bid or purchase at low buy it now prices.

The website is convincing and detailed, using content stolen from other websites including Cazoo, and even a fake graphic of a car transporter with its name on the side.

However, Car Dealer was able to speak to a director of the real Elvaron Limited that is found on Companies House with the company number and address listed on Elvaron-Ltd.co.uk.

They confirmed this is a scam and not linked with their company that doesn’t trade vehicles.

D&S Car Sales Ltd – May 2023

D&S Car Sales Ltd has the tell-tale signs of the other fake car dealers we’ve mentioned on this list – but critically these cars can be found advertised elsewhere for three times the price they are on dscarltd.com.

The business claims to be located in Leven, Scotland, but it’s using the same address as a tyre shop and the area code for the dealership is Edinburgh.

This is also the worst attempt at faking a website so far, as they haven’t bothered to complete most of the template and have left dummy text, phone numbers, emails and photos.

Scot Auto Ltd – April 2023

We were alerted to Scot Auto Ltd by several consumers who were nearly caught out following the same pattern as the other scam websites. They also use Scot Auto Ltd, another business’s name which is a company register with Companies House but associated with a different address. This hasn’t stopped the website using the names of the directors and photos of different people.

In the case of scotautoltd.com it is easy to see the website has been carelessly thrown together if you look closely. Lots of lorem ipsum and other placeholder text has been left in the template.

Critically, the cars are underpriced and can be found advertised for nearly double elsewhere on the internet.

Perth Vehicles – March 2023

This is the third fake car dealership to pop up in March 2023. We were alerted to Perth Vehicles by couple Dave and Fiona Anderson who very nearly lost thousands of pounds sending money to the conmen. Using a repeat of the same scam we’ve seen with the others below, the criminals set up a fake dealership website and advertised cheap cars on Facebook.

This time the bank account details of the scammers were shared with Car Dealer and the business bank they used contacted to report the crime. The bank promised to investigate the account and liaise with the police. Perth Vehicles cloned a legitimate business who also reported the case to the police. Avoid.

Autodents Scotland – March 2023

The dealership’s website autodent-scotland.com was reported to us by a consumer who was about to put down a hefty deposit but spotted that it had some of the tell-tale signs that we mention here.

After some investigation from Car Dealer, it was confirmed that the website advertising cars that are from a range of other websites and sellers but listed at a fraction of the price.

Those searching for Autodent Scotland Ltd will find this is a real company, with the same address, however this is not the real company. The website also lists employees on the ‘about us’ page with stock image photos, and an unusual company founder and delegate for special situations role.

As with many other fake car dealers, the real business is filing micro accounts and their details have been assumed. Car Dealer has attempted to contact them.

Olubola Cars Ltd  – March 2023

This dealership’s website appears to be using images taken from other car dealers online. The main image on the website looks to be genuine at first glance, but after some careful investigation with Google, the original image is from a dealership in Lancashire that has been doctored.

Olubola Cars has limited company details on the Companies House website, but it looks to be a small business that hasn’t operated for a while. And despite the company being in existence since June 2020, the domain name and the website was only set up in mid-February this year.

The map shows the dealership is based in a residential street which doesn’t match the images of the cars photographed and advertised on the site, and we don’t buy its story that the cars are priced cheaply because they are ‘repossessions’. We have tried to contact the dealership for comment, but have not succeeded. Avoid.

Used Car Sales Ltd – February 2023

Advertising cars on Facebook Marketplace, UsedCarsales-ltd.com operates via the gmail address [email protected]. It claims to be selling ‘repossessed cars’ that have been ‘obtained from licences [sic] credit brokers’.

The cars are advertised suspiciously under the market value and the business address looks to be a residential property. It is also using manufacturer logos which it won’t have permission to use (see tips below). When we checked, it was selling motor homes and cars using a variety of pictures taken in different locations on its website – another red flag.

We contacted the dealership and asked for proof it was a legitimate trader via email. It hasn’t been provided. We also contacted the person advertising the cars on Facebook who said their original account had been hacked and that ‘the dealer is a scam’. Avoid.

Win Win Business Limited – February 2023

This is the latest website reported to Car Dealer as suspicious. It has all the hallmarks of a con gang pretending to be a dealership. The Companies House business does not have anything to do with cars, the images of directors on the site are stolen from other websites and the cars for sale are too cheap. There is also no dealership visible in the area it says it is based.

Win Win Business Limited – uses the incorrectly spelt domain name wincarsbussiness.com, the phone number +44 141 628 7731 (few UK businesses publish their numbers with +44 before them) and purports to be based in Paisley, Scotland. It uses a gmail email address, another red flag, and has no reviews on any legitimate advertising websites. Avoid.

Winmex Car Sales Limited – January, 2023

This time, pretending to be based in Broxburn, Scotland, the fake dealer used the business phone number +44 131 618 7377. It published the same address as a genuine trader on its website who told Car Dealer they had reported the scam to the police. Photos of used car stock were all taken in different places and gave us a clue it was a fake.

Mascot Automotive Ltd (clone of a legitimate dealership) – January 2023

A gang of fraudulent car dealers taunted a legitimate showroom boss saying they’d made £100k cloning his business. A fake website and Instagram account were set up to fool customers and images of suspiciously cheap cars, stolen from Auto Trader, were used to fool consumers. Scammers said they were based in Newhall Road Industrial Estate, Sheffield, which turned out to be an empty unit.

JDM Cars – December, 2022

This time scammers pretended to be based at legitimate car dealership Jim Reid Vehicle Sales in Kintore, Inverurie, Scotland. They used his address on their web page as a Google Map, but zoomed in so you couldn’t see his business name. Operating with the phone number 0131 618 0779 and the email address [email protected], the con men cloned another legitimate business who knew nothing of the scam. The website has since been shut down.

Miller Car Sales – October, 2022

Advertising cars at 60 per cent below their market value was a sure fire clue this dealer was not all it made out to be. Supposedly based in Lambert, Scotland, a representative of the Scottish Motor Trade Association visited the address on the website for Car Dealer and found no evidence of a legitimate car dealership. We called them and the same person who tried to scam us from AD Car Sales (below) answered the phone. You can hear that call below. The website has now been shut down.

Auto-Promotions – September 2022

This scam was originally uncovered by the BBC, who found the site was active for six months last year. Again based in Scotland, the scammers had cloned a legitimate car dealership in Fife. Hundreds of people had called or visited the dealer’s site wanting to know where their cars were – but scammers had stolen their money, pretending to be from the dealership.

AD Car Sales – September, 2022

Since our investigation, this website has been shut down. We called the dealership in the video you can watch below and told them we couldn’t find their site – they hung up on us when challenged. They purported to be based in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. Tell tale signs they were fake included stolen images, cheap used car prices and fake reviews.

How do criminal car dealers work?

From what we know, the conmen set up a genuine-looking website with cars at suspiciously low prices. The websites look incredibly professional, have contact details, fake reviews from customers and lots of stock.

The fake car dealers advertise these cars for sale on Facebook Marketplace and other similar websites where it is easy to set up untraceable accounts. These adverts are for cars at far below market rates and look too good to be true – they are.

The adverts direct the users towards the genuine website, usually via an email, which will boast about their company history and reviews.

Customers are coerced into handing over a deposit for the car they want via bank transfer and sometimes the full price of the car.

The fake dealers usually offer to deliver the car for free or for a very low price. Often a fixed price of £90 is mentioned.

Fake car dealers email

The purchased vehicle then never arrives and the con men steal the money. 

The gangs are thought to be based abroad but usually pretend to be in Scotland. They advertise the cars to London and Home Counties buyers assuming they are unlikely to want to see the car first and will want delivery, making the distance con easier to exercise.

How can you spot a fake car dealership that is trying to con you?

Car Dealer’s investigations into these sites have spotted some similar themes that give them away – however, you need to dig deep.

Firstly, checking their name on Companies House is not a safe way of protecting yourself as every one of the cons we have seen so far has cloned an existing business.

Fake car dealers companies house

The conmen take the directors’ names from Companies House records and use them on the site to make them look legitimate.

The businesses the conmen have stolen the identities from often know nothing about the fake website. 

Do not take the fact the dealership’s details on the website matches those on Companies House as a guarantee they are legitimate.

Here are some tell tale signs on a recent con we have found:

Check the images on the About Us page

Fake car dealers about us images

By right clicking on the image, you can ‘search Image with Google’ and this will bring up Google Lens, an AI that matches images found on a website with other occurrences online of that picture.

Take these above on Win Win Business Ltd – the latest suspected dodgy dealership we have discovered.

The image of Angela McKillop is actually stolen from a photographer’s website on how to take professional cabin crew portraits.

Look carefully at the cars for sale images

Fake car dealers car pictures

Dealerships usually take pictures of cars in the same location, with the same backdrop and the same angles. Images like these above taken at lots of different places are a red flag that something is up. 

Are the cars really cheap? Ask yourself why

Used cars find a natural price, plus or minus a few hundred pounds. Check the price of the used car you suspect is a fake against prices on Auto Trader for models with similar prices. If it is wildly cheaper this should raise your eyebrows.

No matter what the seller tells you on the phone or email about the backstory as to why, if the car is too cheap, chances are the deal is too good to be true.

What Car?’s Jim Holder told us: ‘It’s sad to say, but start from the position of trusting nobody. A legitimate seller will earn your trust through its brand, its reputation, feedback from customers, how professionally it presents itself and its vehicles and by putting you in charge of the sale, letting you dictate the pace it moves at, ask any questions you want and arrange a test drive to suit you.’

Does the dealership show up on Google Maps?

Fake car dealers google maps

The conmen have changed the way they do this several times, but we’ve often established they are fake by looking at the supposed location on Google Maps. 

Usually the business name doesn’t match, or exist at all. Look in Streetview mode too – car showrooms usually have cars outside and the name prominently on display. 

Call businesses next door to where they say they are based and ask them if they have heard of the car dealership. We called a barbers next door to one fake dealership, and a car repair shop near another, and both had fielded countless people turning up from all over the country looking for the car they thought they’d bought.

Be cautious of Google Maps that look like they are a car dealership too – check them out carefully as some of the conmen have used Google Maps that show them based at existing car dealerships.

What other tell tale signs could there be on the fake car dealer websites?

Check for reviews on Google or Auto Trader

Even if a car dealership is new, they’ll rapidly get reviews on legitimate websites. We would avoid any car dealership with no reviews on Google or Auto Trader. These should show up when you Google the business. 

Fake elements to the website

One of the fake sites we looked at advertised a car buying app on its website – while this doesn’t look unusual at first glance, the fact it doesn’t link to anything and no app is available on app stores is a worrying sign.

Fake car dealers app advert

‘If you find yourself unsure whether to proceed with a purchase, ask a friend or family member what they’d do,’ said What Car?’s Jim Holder. 

‘Someone who’s not emotionally attached to the idea of a purchase will find it easier to give sound advice. If you do this, though, trust what you hear even if it’s not what you want to hear. Buyers’ remorse is never more acute than when you’ve been scammed.’

Car manufacturer logos

Also be wary of websites using car manufacturer logos to make themselves look legitimate. Used car dealers will be sued by car brands for using their logos without permission – these are reserved for their franchised dealer partners and should raise your eyebrows. One website we looked at also used the Acura logo, which is a brand not sold in the UK.

Fake car dealers logos

Gmail or similar email accounts

These can be easily set up by conmen with little to trace them. Legitimate car dealerships will usually set up an email that matches their domain name, conmen won’t spend the time doing that. While we know some proper car dealers use gmail addresses, we’d be concerned if it was used alongside some of the other red flags in this list.

What precautions can you take to stop being scammed by a fake car dealer?

Visit the car dealership first

More and more people are buying a car online – and there are plenty of ways to do it safely. But if you have concerns about the car dealer you’re planning on buying from, go and visit them first. Car dealers will have no problems welcoming you to their site, especially if you have concerns.

Do your due diligence

Check the car dealership out on review websites including Auto Trader and Google – legitimate car dealers will have plenty of reviews from genuine buyers. 

‘The used car market is so competitive that even the best operators can only earn a slightly higher price for a vehicle than an everyday one – so by following your nose and seeking out a quality seller it’s highly unlikely you’ll end up paying much more,’ explained What Car?’s Holder.

Pay with a credit card

Paying via bank transfer is risky as you have no protection if the business turns out to be fake. Pay on a credit card where you’ll be protected by the bank. Even paying the deposit on a credit card to hold the car until you can go and see if it’s real will mean you have protection if that seller turns out to be a criminal. Legitimate car dealers shouldn’t have a problem with this.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is

It’s an age old saying, but cars that are too cheap should set alarm bells ringing. Don’t get drawn in by what looks like a good deal – no one sells a real car for 50 or 60 per cent less than the market value.

If it feels dodgy, walk away

Jim Holder, editorial director at consumer title What Car? said:If there’s a single red flag – be it a price that’s too good to be true, a +44 number, a query from a Google map search, or pressing for a deposit – then walk away. Very few used cars are unique, and even few are bargains. Chances are, you’ll always be able to find the car you want from elsewhere.’

What can you do if you spot a fake car dealership?

If you think you’ve spotted a fake car dealership, then your first step is to contact the police. Dial 101 and report the crime. When we’ve investigated these dealership fakes we’ve also lodged fraud reports with the website hosting company that the fake dealer’s site is on (if you can find it out). Also report the fake adverts to the social media platform you saw them on.

And contact the Car Dealer team via email, and we’ll add it to our list of suspect websites to help protect others from being conned.

Can the police do anything about fake used car dealers?

Not really. All of the fake sites we have reported to the police have been left operating for weeks after the first report, potentially scamming hundreds more people out of money. The issue is the fact the perpetrators are often based in other countries and are hard to track down. That said, always report these scams to the police on 101.

What to do if you’ve been scammed by a fake car dealer?

If you’ve been conned by one of these car dealers, the first thing to do is contact your bank. They may be able to help stop the payments leaving your account. They can offer support and investigate the incident. We have heard from victims who have got their money back from their banks after they’ve been conned. 

If you paid via credit card, contact your card issuer for support. And once you’ve dealt with that, don’t beat yourself up. These scammers are experts at inspiring confidence in those they’ve conned, so don’t feel bad. Use your anger to warn others in your network via social media. The more people that know about these cons the better.

Car Dealer Magazine gave advice to BBC’s Morning Live programme as part of a special investigation into these fake dealerships. You can watch the full show here, with the used car item featuring at 18:21.


Car Dealer Live – the future of the car dealer – exclusive conference features talks from leading car dealers, Google and Auto Trader among much more. Find out the full event details and book tickets.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

More stories...

Advert
Server 108