• Highly-skilled criminals have been scamming motorists to unknowingly hand their vehicles over to them.
• Dealerships will never offer to collect your vehicle for a recall.
• Owners need to be vigilant and not trust anyone trying to insist on a service.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.
In the beginning of 2020, Wheels24 reported that a stolen white Lamborghini Urus from Bedfordview, with a R200 000 reward for any information leading to the safe return of the vehicle, was spotted in Mozambique.
The Lamborghini owner had fallen victim to a very well-run vehicle theft scam by diligent criminals.
Investigative television programme Carte Blanche ran an insert on Sunday evening (29 Nov) revolving around this same scam we had reported on about ten months ago. This means these criminals are still persistent and have clearly not been caught.
Several luxury supercars and exotic vehicles have been stolen by scammers in the past few months. These vehicles include two Maserati's, three Lamborghinis, and a Bentley worth R5-million to name a few.
At the time, Anton Koen from No Jack vehicle tracking told Wheels24 that owners need to be vigilant because this syndicate has implemented a very smart modus operandi: "These guys make themselves familiar with the dealerships, and the staff who work there. They obtain customer information, possibly by access to Natis (National traffic information system), or keeping a watch on customers who visit showroom floors."
Even back then, various automakers had been warning customers of this scam since late 2019, and several have issued warnings as incidents became more frequent.
However, these intelligent fraudsters are not just targeting Lamborghini owners, they are after all luxury vehicles such as Range Rovers, Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes-Benz', and even Toyota Fortuners, and Hilux bakkies.
Luxury vehicle owners need to be extremely vigilant. Make sure you call the dealership and make absolutely sure there is a recall, however, most times automakers will send out mass communication or notify owners in a more official manner, but they will never offer to come and collect your vehicle. And, just to be safe, call another dealership, even if it's in another province, to confirm if there is a recall or fault on the models.
Also, rather insist that you'll take your vehicle in to your dealership at your own time, but never trust anyone and willingly hand over your vehicle.These criminals are now also using vehicle tracking companies as more owners become aware of their method of operation. Please note that tracking companies will never send anyone out to your home to check a faulty device, nor should you allow anyone insisting to take your vehicle for a test drive to see that everything is in working order.
Vehicle recall scam alert
The Insurance Crime Bureau (ICB) recently issued a vehicle recall scam alert following a significant increase in the number of cases.
"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, 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, CEO of the ICB, says that initial contact is normally made telephonically, where a criminal posing as an official informs victims that their vehicle is being recalled.
"This is often followed up with a spoof e-mail, 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 – most often using a tow truck," says de Klerk.
A couple of 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 telephonically – mostly through fake "market research calls".
However, according to Carte Blanche, most of the vehicles which have been stolen have recently been serviced, but it does not mean there are dealership employees involved, these criminals have just been profiling and collecting data of unsuspecting owners.
• 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.
"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.