Facebook fraudsters driving off with thousands as car scams nearly double

The scam: Criminals on Facebook marketplace use stolen photos and videos of genuine vehicles, to advertise cars that they don’t own and aren’t theirs to sell.

Having used the stolen photos and videos to convince a buyer to purchase the vehicle, they do not respond or block the buyer after they have transferred over the funds.

Earlier this month Santander fraud investigators found, in just half an hour, 25 ‘sellers’ posting around 4,000 fake adverts on Facebook marketplace.

Volume: Santander data covering January 2023 – September 2023, and January 2022 – September 2022, shows:

  • 440 customers have fallen victim to Facebook car scams this year, up 87% from  last year. Customers in every age group reported an increase in car scams.
  • This year nearly half a million (£479,964) has been reported as lost to Facebook car scams, up 93% from last year.
  • People aged 18-25 are the most likely to fall victim to Facebook car scams accounting for a fifth (20%) of all cases in 2023. Over 60s are second most likely to fall victim accounting for 14% of all cases, while 41-45 year olds are third accounting for 12.5% of all cases.
  • Over 60s lost the largest sums of money to scammers, with an average claim made for £1,564 so far this year, up from £748.06 last year. 56-60 year olds reported the second largest losses with an average claim for £1,528, while 26-30 year olds were third with an average claim of £1,263.

Chris Ainsley, Head of Fraud Risk Management at Santander said: “Scammers are stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds from people falling foul of car scams on online marketplaces. But people can help put the brakes on these scams by learning the telltale signs of fake listings and doing due diligence before transferring any funds. 

“For this particular type of scam the single best thing anybody can do to protect their money is to not transfer any funds until the vehicle is in their possession and they have seen it in person.”

Car scams - how it works: 

  • You click on an advert for a vehicle you like the look of. Then you start a conversation with the seller.
  • They reassure you through their messages that everything’s above board. 
  • They might even share official looking contracts. Or give details of money-back guarantees. 
  • They’ll ask you to pay upfront. This may be just the deposit to ‘secure the deal’. But could be for the full amount of the purchase. 
  • They will ask you to make payment by bank transfer. 
  • After you have sent the money the contact stops and the seller disappears.
  • You are left without the new vehicle, and you’ve lost your money.

How to protect yourself 

Some simple steps can help protect you and your money.

  • A photo or video isn’t proof the vehicle exists. Make sure you have seen it and it is in your possession before making any payment.
  • Follow the government’s advice on purchasing a used vehicle. This includes completing an HPI vehicle check. This check can give you vital information about the vehicle. 
  • Buying from a reputable site? If so, stick to their dedicated advice and processes. Especially on ways to pay for your vehicle. 
  • Research the seller and always read the reviews. Compare several review sites. This helps rule out any fake reviews left by the criminals.

For more information on fraud and scams please visit our website. Take Five also has some useful information on their website.

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The information contained in our press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. At 30 June 2023, the bank had around 19,400 employees and serves around 14 million active customers, 7 million digital customers via a nationwide 445 branch network, telephone, mobile and online banking. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the FCA and the PRA in the UK. Santander UK plc customers’ eligible deposits are protected by the FSCS in the UK.

Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading commercial bank, founded in 1857 and headquartered in Spain. It has a meaningful presence in 10 core markets in the Europe, North America and South America regions, and is one of the largest banks in the world by market capitalization. Santander aims to be the best open financial services platform providing services to individuals, SMEs, corporates, financial institutions and governments. The bank’s purpose is to help people and businesses prosper in a simple, personal and fair way. Santander is building a more responsible bank and has made a number of commitments to support this objective, including raising €220 billion in green financing between 2019 and 2030. At the end of the third quarter of 2023, Banco Santander had €1.3 trillion in total funds, 166 million customers, 8,700 branches and 212,000 employees.