Celebrating foolishness — it’s been going on for centuries. One common theory about the origin of April Fools’ Day goes back to 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal decree establishing the Gregorian calendar, moving the start of the new year from April 1 to January 1. Non-adopters were known as April Fools.
While most of us can appreciate, if not enjoy, a good prank, no one likes to be made a fool. And yet there are many scammers, conmen/women and fraudsters in existence, trying to get rich doing just that. From phony CRA officers threatening to charge people for supposed tax arrears to larcenous paramours running romance scams, organized criminals are seeking victims everywhere; even the online vehicle sales marketplace.
According to OMVIC, Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator, phony dealership scams and phony private seller scams have become commonplace. While the modus operandi is the same for most, that is the vehicle is not actually available to be viewed/driven because it’s located at a US dealership; or, in the case of a phony private seller, at a shipping company because the seller has had to go abroad; the advertisements themselves may have telltale signs indicating they’re a scam.
According to Terry O’Keefe, OMVIC’s Director of Communications and Education: “The scammers usually steal photos from legitimate ads and reuse them — so the pictures have often been taken in a locale (or season) that doesn’t match what you might expect in Ontario.” So beware of ad images that include vegetation that doesn’t make sense — like the palm tree barely visible in the background of pictures of a Toyota Land Cruiser advertised for sale — in Brampton. Or the heavily foliaged trees in the Toronto ad for a Ford Ranger for sale — in January.
But seasonal and geographical anomalies aren’t the only pictorial warnings. “Because the original pictures are often of vehicles that were offered for sale in distant jurisdictions, the scammers will not use a photograph that shows a licence plate — or they’ll block it out,” explained O’Keefe. “So be cautious of an ad with pictures showing every angle of the car — except the front and back.”
Now, it is possible that a legitimate private vehicle seller could be using photos they took months before placing an ad or they may have removed the plate from their car, but advertisements demonstrating these attributes should be viewed “warily.”
There’s an old English proverb that says:
“A fool and his money are soon parted.” So this spring, if you’re searching the private online classifieds for a vehicle, recognize there are criminals operating in the marketplace trying to make a “fool” of you.
Turn the tables; learn their tricks; and get educated before you buy. For as Lord Acton stated: “A wise person does at once, what a fool does last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.”
“A fool and his money are soon parted.”
For more information on how to protect yourself when buying a car privately, or from a registered dealer, visit omvic.ca and review the car buying tips.