Beware of phone-in car recall scammers
Share this article:
“Criminals execute a recall scam by contacting unsuspecting vehicle owners and posing as officials representing a car manufacturer - convincing the owners that their vehicle is part of a batch being recalled due to serious malfunctions,” says Maanda Tshifularo, the head of Dialdirect Insurance.
“With the promise of a repaired or replacement vehicle, many people buy into this scam and end up losing tens, or even hundreds of thousands of rand.”
Garth de Klerk, chief executive of the ICB, says initial contact is usually made by phone, where a criminal posing as an official tells victims their vehicle is being recalled.
“This is often followed-up with a spoof email, with criminals going to great lengths to make their communication seem official. They convince vehicle owners that they shouldn’t drive their vehicle under any circumstances and make arrangements to collect it - often using a tow truck,” says De Klerk.
A few days later, the owner would typically phone the dealership for an update, only to discover that the vehicle has in fact been stolen.
These crimes, where millions have been lost, are likely driven by single or multiple syndicates. The end market of these syndicates varies, with some of the vehicles cloned and re-sold locally, and others, often high-end vehicles, taken across the border or shipped to other countries and sold there.
De Klerk says that it’s surprisingly easy for criminals to get profiling details of an individual and the car they drive, due to people often sharing too much information through social media platforms and by phone - mostly through fake “market research calls”.
Dialdirect and the ICB offer the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:
* Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media and on phones. Criminals use this to build a detailed profile.
* Be vigilant and maintain a healthy sense of scepticism when talking to strangers. Make every effort to verify that they are indeed who they say they are, and that they are an employee of the company they claim to represent.
* Check with the manufacturer and/or dealership directly to verify that the recall is legitimate. Don't trust contact details provided by the person who called you.
* Report any suspicious calls to the authorities, the manufacturer and/or the dealership. In the case of a genuine recall, the manufacturer will send you formal communication that describes the process in detail, the steps to follow, and how to verify what's happening at every stage.
* Under no circumstances should you hand over your car to a third party. If there's a genuine recall, a car manufacturer won't collect your car themselves, as the liability and risks are too high.
“It’s wise to remember that there could always be a scamster somewhere, trying to separate you from your vehicle or hard-earned money. Always be alert, don’t trust too easily and do your homework, especially when large amounts of money or valuable possessions are concerned,” says Tshifularo.