Car Buyers: Protecting Yourself from Scams During the Plate Change


As the calendar turns to a new year, car buyers often seek to purchase vehicles with the latest number plates, presenting an influx of used cars into the market. While this can be an excellent opportunity to find quality vehicles, it also opens the door to potential scams that fraudsters might use to defraud unsuspecting buyers. In this blog, we will delve deeper into some of the common scams that buyers should be aware of and how they can protect themselves. Additionally, we will explore the significance of conducting a full vehicle provenance check as a safeguard against these fraudulent practices.

Q1: What is "conversion fraud," and how can it affect car buyers?

Conversion fraud has become increasingly prevalent, especially as more cars are being financed or leased in the UK. In this type of scam, the fraudster acquires a car through finance but proceeds to sell it without settling the finance agreement, resulting in a fraudulent sale. The issue for the buyer arises when it becomes evident that the car belongs to the lender, leading them to reclaim it. To protect themselves from falling victim to conversion fraud, buyers should be cautious and consider conducting a thorough vehicle provenance check before making a purchase.

Q2: How do written-off vehicles pose a risk to car buyers?

Shady private sellers have been known to dupe unsuspecting buyers by selling Category C written-off vehicles. Fraudsters buy these written-off cars inexpensively, neglect to repair them properly, and attempt to hide the fact that they have been written off from potential buyers. Purchasing such a vehicle can lead to significant financial losses and safety concerns if the car's history is not properly disclosed. To avoid this scam, it is essential for buyers to be vigilant and seek guidance from reputable sources before finalizing any purchase.

Q3: What is virtual vehicle fraud, and how can buyers protect themselves from it?

With the rise of remote car buying options due to the Covid lockdowns, virtual vehicle fraud has become a concerning issue. Fraudsters often use attractive images of cars they don't actually possess, aiming to scam buyers by demanding large deposits with promises of vehicle delivery once the money is received. To avoid falling victim to this scam, buyers should exercise caution when dealing with sellers who only communicate via email and never pay any deposit without physically inspecting the car first.

Q4: What is vehicle mileage fraud, and why is it a safety concern?

Vehicle mileage fraud, commonly known as "clocking," involves adjusting a car's odometer to display a lower mileage reading, artificially inflating the vehicle's value. This practice poses significant safety risks, as the actual wear and tear on the vehicle may be much higher than indicated by the odometer. To combat this issue, the government is considering introducing new offenses related to tampering with equipment and odometer adjustments. Buyers are advised to consult reputable sources and dealerships that conduct mileage checks to ensure the vehicle's true condition.


As the plate change brings an influx of used cars into the market, car buyers need to be aware of the potential scams that could leave them defrauded and unsafe vehicles. Conversion fraud, written-off vehicles, virtual vehicle fraud, and mileage fraud are all risks that buyers should be vigilant about. To protect themselves, buyers are strongly encouraged to conduct a comprehensive vehicle provenance check before making any purchase. By staying informed and exercising caution, car buyers can confidently navigate the market and find the perfect vehicle without falling victim to scams.