Authorities in Abu Dhabi have issued a fresh warning to the public after recording a surge in online car sale scams this year.
Abu Dhabi Judicial Department raised the alarm over fraudsters setting up fake websites and offering enticing deals on social media and online marketplaces to cheat prospective buyers out of their cash.
Unsuspecting motorists face being left out of pocket, and could also be putting their safety at risk by purchasing vehicles with undisclosed faults.
“There is an increase of reports received by public prosecution about fraudulent online car sellers through fake websites and on social media accounts,” said Al Amer Al Ameri, a chief prosecutor in the emirate.
“We call upon the public to verify the reliability of social media accounts and websites before any purchase process.”
He emphasised that customers should do their homework before making a purchase to avoid being caught out.
“People should ensure the identity of the seller and not hand over the money only after they transfer the ownership of the vehicle and register it with the licensing authority,” Mr Al Ameri added.
Drivers count the cost
In one recent incident, a woman bought a four-wheel drive vehicle for Dh180,000 ($49,000) from a seller, believing it to be under warranty.
When the motorist took the car to the manufacturer for repairs five months later, she discovered this was not the case.
She took her complaint to Abu Dhabi Civil Court, which in August ruled she should be given a full refund and the sale contract be cancelled.
The verdict is being appealed against by the car seller.
In another case, a buyer from Abu Dhabi found out that the Dh115,000 four-wheel drive she acquired second-hand had 300,000km on the clock – not the 65,000km advertised.
She took legal action against the seller, including presenting a copy of the contract, a certificate from the manufacturer and the messages between her and the buyer on WhatsApp.
An Abu Dhabi court ruled that the contract was invalid and a full refund was issued as the discrepancy was discovered within six months of purchase.
Omar Othman, from second-hand car dealer Souq Al Haraj, in Sharjah, said buyers should conduct extensive checks, including on service history, before buying a car.
“People should always buy the car from a reliable place. They should make full check-up for the car at verified centres before buying the car,” Mr Othman told The National.
“Even if you trust the seller, don't pay the money until the seller transfer the ownership of the car.”
How to steer clear of trouble
- Buy a used car from a reliable source
- Have the car independently inspected by an accredited garage
- Ask for a detailed service history as the odometer readings will be registered at the service time
- Check brake and accelerator pedals for wear and tear, as excessive wear on the pedals is an indication that mileage may be greater than displayed