UK DRIVERS are unknowingly being sold stolen and dangerous motors on free websites such as Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree.
But by doing some research before buying a new vehicle, Brits can uncover their car's true history.
Industry leaders have warned that non-specialist motoring sites are being used to flog stolen, written-off and financed cars to thousands of drivers.
Fraudsters use the sites to offer defected cars at discounts prices as there is minimal legal protection once an owner has handed over their money.
Typically, these criminals will pose as private sellers in order to trick prospective buyers into thinking they're credible.
Auto Advance, which provides loans on used cars, identified the rise in these scams when processing application from owners.
But drivers can use a range of techniques to check a motor's history, including whether it has been stolen, has outstanding finance or tampered mileage.
Before you see the vehicle, ask the seller for the registration number, make, model and MOT test number.
You should then check if these details match the information held by the DVLA.
It can also be useful to check the MOT status and history to find out if it's previously passed and the mileage recorded when it was tested.
Ask to see the details in the logbook and make sure they match the details you've been given – look for any discrepancies in the recordings.
If a buyer refuses to pass on this history, it's a fair indication it has been stolen or a defect.
Companies – such as HPI, RAC and vcheck.uk – can check if the vehicle your interested in has any mileage discrepancies, been stolen or has outstanding finance.
Kris Baldwin, managing director of Auto Advance, said: "Checking a used car before you purchase is absolutely vital. Buying used, rather than new, means individuals are looking for cosmetic issues and engine problems, rather than what's going on behind the scenes.
"A simple, inexpensive check of the potential vehicle could mean the difference between paying your own finance agreement – and someone else's – or simply lose the car and every penny you paid for it."
A Gumtree spokesperson told This is Money: "We are totally committed to keeping our site as safe as possible and work closely with industry associations such as VSTAG – the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group – to ensure the safety of our users.
'We've also partnered with HPI to give our users an easy way to check out the history of any vehicle and an advice page on how to spot fraudulent adverts can be found on our website.
'We actively encourage anyone that thinks they may have come across such a scam to report it to us immediately.
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