Using fake online adverts – predominantly on the auction site eBay – criminals are luring car buyers to various locations in Manchester and Oldham.
Upon arrival, the victims are threatened with various weapons, including a gun, hammer and machetes.
According to one report, a victim and his girlfriend arrived to buy a car advertised online. Two men approached the victims and held a gun to the woman’s head. The armed robbers left with a large quantity of cash.
In another incident, a victim had a car jack thrown through the window of his car and was punched in the face. He managed to flee the scene.
Police in Manchester are linking 10 robberies that took place between 19 November and 22 January. Detectives are urging car buyers to be vigilant.
Detective Sergeant Kat McKeown of Greater Manchester Police said: “These offenders are targeting innocent members of the public via the internet and have no compassion at all for their victims who they have subjected to a number of terrifying ordeals.
”They are devious and ruthless and need to be caught. For this reason, we have a dedicated team of detectives working around the clock to identify those responsible.”
An eBay spokesperson told the BBC: “We have suspended a number of accounts and continue to cooperate with the authorities while the investigation is ongoing.”
How to spot a fake online car advert
Car buyers have been targeted by fake online car adverts for many years, but these incidents elevate the problem to a new and brutal level. The criminals may use images and descriptions from legitimate online adverts to make them appear genuine. They’re simply copy and pasted, with new contact details used.
The first signs of a potential crime may only appear once contact is made. Maybe the seller insists on using a nameless Hotmail account. Maybe they insist on calling you via a withheld number.
You should always arrange to meet at the seller’s house. Arranging to view a car after dark in a remote or isolated location should raise suspicion.
In the past, online scammers have used unrealistically cheap prices to encourage unsuspecting car buyers to part with substantial deposits. The car doesn’t exist and the buyer may never meet the scammer, but they could end up out of pocket to the tune of thousands of pounds.
If it seems to good to be true, the chances are it is.