/ Money, Motoring, Shopping

Scam watch: I almost lost £2,500 when buying a car via an escrow service


Sian discovered that her car sale was part of an elaborate scam just in time. But her story acts as a warning to us all when using a third-party money transfer service.

Sian told us: I nearly fell foul of a sophisticated scam when trying to buy a Hyundai i10 for £2,500 on Auto Trader. The seller told me he worked overseas and suggested I completed the transaction using an escrow (third-party money transfer) service.

The escrow’s website appeared legitimate and included links to major websites. Only when I went to pay the money did I become suspicious. The Lloyds Bank account belonging to the escrow service was misspelt with only one ‘L’!

I did some research and realised it was a scam. I reported it to the police, and they are hoping to make an arrest imminently.

Advice on using an escrow service

We say: Although the majority of Auto Trader transactions are completed without a hitch, some people use the site to operate sophisticated scams such as this.

With this in mind, Auto Trader discourages its customers from sending money for a vehicle they haven’t seen. Always physically check the vehicle to see that it matches the details listed online. The Auto Trader website has plenty of additional advice on avoiding fraudulent transactions.

Before using an escrow service, always look for signs that it may be fake, such as false licence numbers and logos, or a mobile phone number disguised as a foreign landline.

It’s fantastic that the police tracked down the scammer. We’d advise anyone who spots these scams to report them to Auto Trader, Action Fraud and the police.

Does the above story sound familiar to you? Have you been affected by scam while trying to buy a used car?

Useful links

Read our advice on how to buy a used car



“The seller told me he worked overseas and suggested I completed the transaction using an escrow (third-party money transfer) service” – why is anyone daft enough to continue after that point.

Highly ironic since “escrow” sounds like the French word for crook, escroc…

” We’d advise anyone who spots these scams to report them to Auto Trader, Action Fraud and the police.”

In my innocence I assumed that Action Fraud was the police. Or is it simply a centre for collating data? Given it’s title that seems rather a let down.

I was thinking earlier how useful it would be if Which? had a wikipedia type design and simply typing in scams would take one to a page where you could go to the scams that may be relevant to your purchases.

The pages relevant need not be native Which? pages but could be on relevant official sites. However Which? stories but with more facts might be more memorable.

Essentially Conversations and Which? generate lots of information but finding it again in a useful form is another matter.

I did a web search for ‘current scams’ and turned up this page: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/scams

Yes that page is very useful. We also have a list of all our scam convos here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/tag/scams/

If you are actually in Which? and wish to find scams it is actually not obvious as you cannot go there from the home page.

By going to a product and then typing “scam” you will get a list of 27 articles on various scams. And of course Conversations has its own list.

Which illustrates that information is there it is just within Which? you cannot easily or swiftly get to where the information is.

It is interesting that depending on your search engine and your cookies what answer your search engine will provide . In any event it is easier from outside than inside to get to the page.

We nearly lost £12,490 in a motorhome buying scam. A genuine motorhome was lifted from an ad and these people advertised the motorhome very cheaply. When my husband tried to arrange a viewing he got two emailed replies one from a lady in Bristol who said her husband had died which was her reason for sellIng . The other claimed the motorhome was in Dumfriess and they would pay cost of delivering it to us. The prices were different on both emails. The written English was poor to the extent that one began Hy instead of Hi!
They wanted us to pay into an escrow account before we’d seen the motorhome. Then they emailed a link to an Ebay page inviting us to pay £12490. The page looked completely genuine but when we went on Ebay independently the page didn’t exist. I reported the scam to Ebay and they said they were investigating but the same people were on there the following week. If I hadn’t smelled a rat we could quite easily have lost all our money.

I am Rahul….
I was effected through escrow uk scam……
I need help ….
And any sites to complaint….police?

This is a specialist area and difficult to advise on without full details and particulars. I would suggest you speak to, or go to see, Citizen’s Advice. If it appears that there has been any illegal action then they can refer your case to the police or trading standards as appropriate.

F Reed says:
2 March 2018

Does Which? have a list of genuine Escrow bodies in the UK? If not, why not?

I would not expect Which? to maintain a list of escrow services; they probably change from time to time in various ways and it is necessary for Which? to avoid any suggestion of endorsement. If I was urged to make a transaction via an escrow account alarm bells would start ringing immediately and I would not proceed. If I did wish to use this kind of facility I would probably start by asking my bank for advice.

Hannah Milev says:
12 May 2018

Escrow services in the UK need to be authorised by the FCA (financial conduct authority). If a site you want to use says it’s authorised (not just registered) and you double check it on the FCA’s website, it’s genuine and safe to use.

In fact, using it should even stop you losing money if the seller you’re dealing with is a scammer, as they will only get the money once you’ve received the item and are happy with it (otherwise you’ll get the money back).