More than 100,000 car adverts on Facebook are SCAMS

More than four in five cars advertised through Facebook’s online trading platform Marketplace are scam ads, High Street bank Santander estimates.

A bombshell report from the bank has revealed for the first time the extent to which social media giant Meta is allowing its platform to be overwhelmed by criminals selling fake vehicles.

Researchers estimate there could be more than 100,000 fake British car adverts on Facebook at any given time, Money Mail can reveal today.

If you search for any type of car on Facebook Marketplace, there’s a good chance that fraud ads will be among the top results, Santander warns.

Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management at Santander who led the investigation, said a team combed Facebook Marketplace earlier this month to assess the extent of fraudulent car ads.

Too good to be true: Fake cars offered online at unrealistic prices are almost certainly a scam

Within 30 minutes of conducting searches for different types of cars, researchers found 25 fake seller accounts and as many as 4,000 listings.

That amounts to an average of 160 cars per seller. One profile contained 687 advertisements for fake cars.

Hundreds of accounts are posting ads in Britain, suggesting there could be as many as 100,000 scam listings at any given time, they estimate.

A search for “Volvo” on Facebook Marketplace yielded only one real sale, and nine scam posts in the top listings.

Mr Ainsley said: ‘What we found on Facebook Marketplace is really concerning and problematic.

‘We raised it with Meta because we want them to understand the magnitude of the problem; it costs thousands of people in Britain.”

Fake posts on Facebook and other social media platforms are causing a dramatic increase in the number of people being scammed by vehicle scams.

The number of cases reported to Santander in the first nine months of 2023 has almost doubled compared to a year ago – an increase of 87 percent.

About 440 of the bank’s customers reported incidents between January and September, with an estimated 60 percent of them coming from Facebook Marketplace.

Nearly half a million pounds (£479,964) has been lost to Facebook auto fraud among Santander customers this year, a 93 percent increase on the same time last year. The average victim lost £1,090.

TSB data also shows that more than three-quarters of all vehicle-related scams start on Facebook.

Seven percent of TSB customers who reported losing money to scams say they heard about the cars on eBay. Instagram and Gumtree follow.

The most commonly scammed brands include Ford, which is responsible for 18 percent of all reported cases, Audi (12 percent), BMW (10 percent), Land Rover (10 percent) and VolksWagen (8 percent), according to TSB. .

Mr Ainsley adds that Volkswagen Golfs and Mini Coopers are also among the most scammed cars.

Fraudsters' paradise: Scammers use convincing Facebook accounts with fake profile photos and fake reviews to trick their victims into sending cash upfront

Fraudsters’ paradise: Scammers use convincing Facebook accounts with fake profile photos and fake reviews to trick their victims into sending cash upfront

The two banks warn that scammers are using social media to prey on customers looking to buy a second-hand car, tricking them into sending money with bargain offers.

According to fraud expert Jack Buster, who runs Action Scam, a group that helps victims get money back, the average scam ad lists vehicles for between half and three-quarters of the market price.

“The biggest indicator of whether a post is real or not is the price it was posted at.

“Asking prices typically range from perhaps 75 percent of what they should be, to completely absurd reductions of perhaps 25 percent or even 10 percent.”

‘£1,500 for a car that didn’t exist’

Ofelia Forbes fell victim to fake car fraud in September when she urgently needed to buy a car for her work as a carer.

After months of saving, the 26-year-old, who moved to Nottingham from Jamaica just six months ago, was ready to buy a car on September 17 and immediately started looking for her new car online.

She found a Kia Picanto 2021 model for sale on Facebook Marketplace for £1,500 and contacted the seller via Messenger.

The salesperson, Peter, seemed friendly in his profile photo, she says.

“He seemed like an older gentleman you would respect.

‘There was a link to his company’s website where there were reviews from satisfied customers.

“I also looked up his name online but found no evidence of a scam.”

Ofelia told Peter she was interested in the car and asked for it to be delivered to her home from Manchester.

She paid a £250 deposit on the car and was told delivery would be the next day.

Ofelia says: ‘We agreed that the next payment would be made when I took delivery of the car.

‘However, on the day of delivery he called to say everything was on track but I had to pay £500 for insurance and paperwork.’

Ofelia was told that she would have to pay the £500 if she wanted the car delivered that day, and that the car would not be on the road until the money was received.

‘I didn’t understand why they needed money for insurance and asked. But I needed the car, so I paid for it,” she says.

Scams: Nearly half a million pounds (£479,964) have been lost to Facebook auto fraud among Santander customers this year, a 93% increase from the same time last year

Scams: Nearly half a million pounds (£479,964) have been lost to Facebook auto fraud among Santander customers this year, a 93% increase from the same time last year

But a few hours later Peter told her the money hadn’t arrived and there had been a problem with the first payment, so I had to send another £500.

If the first payment showed up in his account later, it would be deducted from the final payment she had to make, she was told.

“At the time I was nervous because I paid more than half the total without getting any confirmation that the car was on its way, but I paid it anyway,” she says.

Twenty minutes later, Peter told her that the money had been received, that the car was on its way and would arrive at her home at 2 p.m.

The attendant asked for the driver’s location or some proof, but was told the driver could not do that.

She says: ‘He kept telling me to be patient and stay calm.’

An hour later another message came from Peter: the driver needed £100 to pay for petrol as he had run out of petrol.

“I’d never heard of it before so I started to get annoyed, but he threatened that I wouldn’t see the car if I didn’t pay, so I did,” she says.

Ofelia was told the car was back on the road, but when the car was only 15 minutes away, she hit another bump in the road.

‘Peter said the driver was now very close and was naming the local streets. He told me to go ahead and pay the last £150 so that everything would go smoothly on arrival, given the many delays that had already occurred. At first Ofelia refused because she was afraid it was a scam.

But when she expressed her concerns, he told her they had a good business. ‘He kept giving me reasons to pay, so I did. But the car didn’t come.

“I begged him and said please don’t let this be a scam because I already explained to him that I really need this car.

‘He started laughing and said everything was fine. But when there was still no sign of the car, I asked what the problem was and he just said ‘LOL’.”

Within seconds, Ofelia was blocked by Peter and unable to make contact. “I didn’t believe it, but then I realized it and I felt sick,” she says.

The caregiver called her bank, Lloyds, and Action Fraud to report the crime. She received £500 in reimbursement from Lloyds and a further £125 following intervention from Money Mail.

A spokesperson for Lloyds Bank said: ‘Protecting our customers from fraud is our priority and we have great sympathy for Ms Forbes. Buying a car on social media that you haven’t personally viewed is always risky.

In this case, although we showed a warning before Ms. Forbes completed the payments, advising her to pay by card, we provided a partial refund.”

Breeding ground for fraudsters

Facebook Marketplace has exploded in popularity in recent years. It was originally popular in local communities because you could see what someone in your area was selling.

Scams were less of a problem because buyers did not hand over the money until the seller personally received the items.

Increasingly, however, items are purchased from further away and delivered by the seller. This is similar to other marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon.

A spokesperson for Meta said: ‘We recognize our important role in tackling the industry-wide problem of online purchasing scams and have systems in place to block scams.

“Facebook Marketplace is a local meet and collect service, so we don’t facilitate payments or shipping, but scammers are taking advantage of this by taking conversations off our platforms where we can’t enforce them.

“We encourage our community to report scams immediately so we can take action, and we will continue to provide customers with the knowledge to safely transact and prevent fraud on Marketplace.”

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