Unfortunately, due to the freedom of the Internet and ease of access with the ability to remain anonymous there are a number of heartless, greedy people who don’t mind ripping us honest people off. During my time in the industry I have come across pretty much every scam in the book. I think it is important that anyone who is looking to buy or sell a caravan online be made aware of the commonly used scams that are used to con innocent people into handing over their hard earned cash to these cyber fraudsters.
The key thing to remember, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Use the following list to examine any suspicious messages you have received to spot any patterns in the communication:
Scam number 1 (when selling a caravan)
It all begins with you receiving communication either by email or telephone (normally telephone as this is more convincing) from an individual claiming to be from a finance / loan agency who will tell you that they have details of people who are potentially interested in the caravan you have for sale. They will continue their convincing script by informing you that the interested buyer/s have already conveniently been cleared for credit on your caravan and are ready to buy. Finally, (and here comes the clever bit) after you are getting excited at the possibility of moving your caravan on, they inform you that to put you in touch with the potential buyer/s it will cost you a one off fee of £70 (can vary) payable by credit / debit card over the phone right away. DO NOT PAY! If someone had genuinely gone to the effort of being cleared for credit on your caravan they would contact you themselves.
This scam is designed to deceive you into handing over your card details which can be used by the fraudster at a later date for a larger purchase.
Scam number 2 (when selling a caravan)
The scam begins with the fraudster contacting you by email seeming interested in the caravan you have or sale. They will ask all the right questions and normally request more photos in an attempt to seem genuine. They will agree to purchase the caravan (normally for asking price) and ask you for a home address they can send a cheque to. The buyer will claim that they are buying it and having it shipped overseas and that their shipping agent will collect direct from you at some pre-arranged date in the never existing future. Upon receiving the cheque you will notice that it is for way more than the asking price of your caravan. You will then receive another email from the fraudster telling you they are sorry but there was an accounting error made and that the cheque you received included the money that was supposed to be sent to the shipping agent. They will then proceed to ask you to bank the cheque and electronically wire the over payment to a specified account. As you can imagine, the cheque never clears.
Never release any funds or your caravan until you have received funds that have 100% cleared in your account confirmed by your bank / building society.
Scam number 3 (when buying a caravan)
This scam is operated by offering a deal that simply cannot be refused. You will be joyfully browsing the latest caravans for sale on your favourite caravan advert website when (I will use example names and figures here) the 2008 Swift Conqueror 645 complete with caravan mover, two awnings, satellite system and all the accessories is at the absolute bargain price of £6,000. Not wanting to miss out on the deal of a lifetime you call the crazy seller who has clearly undervalued their possession and ask a few questions about the condition etc. The seller will of course tell you that it is in fantastic condition and that they barely use it and so it has to go. They will also tell you that they have had a lot of interest in the caravan and a few viewings arranged already, BUT, for the tidy sum of £500 (can vary dramatically) payable by credit / debit card over the phone or bank transfer they will reserve it for you.
Need I say, the caravan does not exist. The fraudster simply steals pictures from an old advert and makes up some sales copy and voila! This particular scam will normally earn the fraudster several thousand pounds before they move on to their next scam. As with scam number 1, if you hand your card details out over the phone to these people they will just use them to buy a £900 widescreen TV.
As I mentioned above, if it seems too good to be true, it normally is.
Scam number 4 (when buying a caravan)
As with scam number 3, this is normally advertised as a blindingly cheap deal that you simply cannot miss out on. You contact the seller who will claim to be out of town but assures you that this is not a problem, you can still buy the caravan as the website you are contacting through conveniently offer the service of acting as the middle man. Apparently, the website will invoice you said amount and hold onto the money until you have the chance to view the caravan upon the seller’s return. You will be sent a rather convincing looking invoice from which ever website you are communicating through requesting the agreed price of the caravan. DO NOT PAY! None of the caravan advert websites offer this service.
As before, the caravan does not exist. The bank details you are given to send the money to belong to the fraudster who has done this many times before and will disappear from the face of the earth before you have realised what you have done.
Scam number 5 (when buying a caravan)
You will see a caravan that you are interested in buying while browsing online and decide to contact the seller for more information (again normally a cracking deal to lure you in). When the seller has answered all your questions and you have asked to arrange to view the caravan the seller will tell you that they are fed up with time wasters and that they would like you to prove that you have the money to make such a purchase. They will suggest that you make a transfer of the funds to a friend or family member via Moneygram and to forward the receipt onto them as proof.
The receipt you send contains all the information the fraudster needs to get hold of that money. Be careful.
Scam number 6 (when buying a caravan)
You will see a caravan on eBay at, as always, a bargain price and continue to contact the seller to find out more. Upon agreeing terms etc the seller will suggest that they will deliver the caravan to you once you have sent the agreed price to them by PayPal. Upon transferring the funds to PayPal the fraudster will immediately withdraw the funds and disappear before you have a chance to realise you have been conned and report it to eBay and PayPal.
This seems obvious but the way the fraudster communicates will convince many people to part with their cash before receiving the goods. I would note that eBay and PayPal have become a lot stricter in who they allow to sell and transfer money using their platforms and so this is less common now. However, there are some expert fraudsters out there capable of high-jacking genuine eBay and PayPal accounts and simply changing the information.
Scam number 7 (when renting a caravan)
This is one that as featured in local press. The article told the story of a couple who wanted to treat their two young nephews to their first caravanning holiday. Whilst browsing online they stumbled across a cheap deal to rent a static caravan at a holiday park in Hayle on a free ads website. They proceeded to contact the advertiser who told them that he had had a lot of interest but would secure the booking for the sum of £350. The couple paid the money and travelled 2 hours to the site on the date arranged with the advertiser. To their horror the caravan did not exist and the couple ended up having to fork out a further £400 to stay in a nearby chalet.
The lesson behind this is to only buy from reputable online booking companies (even then with caution) as you would expect to pay for this sort of thing upfront, which is why it did not set off any alarm bells to the couple in the story.
Please be careful out there everyone! There are a lot of bad people out there who think nothing of robbing others.
Have you had any experiences with any of the above scams? Perhaps you are the victim of a scam and want to let everyone else know your story to help prevent it from happening to anyone else. I would love to hear form you, leave your comment in the box below.
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