Station Car part 2: Scams and Supermarkets
Its been a few weeks since the mission to swap sir Bentley for a station car began and it turns out not to be as simple as originally hoped. Sure there would be a few challenges but safe to say I was not prepared for the unusual enquiries, the car supermarket experience and the odd scam.
After last weeks trip to BMW the plan now was to find a garage toexchange the Bentley for a station car and cash. A few places appeared keen yet it turned out to be rather difficult. Primarily down to the indecision as to what car to buy. What car to focus on ? The Audi TT has a distinct design and will be a classic at some point when the numbers of remaining cars dips below the tens of thousands. Of course it has to be cheap therefore old and needed to have a fun factor. Therefore I started speaking to garages about TT’s with the 3.2litre v6, all the time still open to other options.
A few garages decided not to take on the Bentley due to the cost and risk for them which is fair enough. During such a visit, to Auto Sportiva in Sevenoaks I saw a neat 2008 BMW 320i. It’s not 4wd but its cool looking, good spec, manual and no sat nav all for 8 grand which on reflection was a bit too steep. Auto Sportiva are a great garage with some choice stock and a very friendly and open sales technique so thanks to Alec there for helping me round. Ultimately the BMW was not ideal and they preferred not to take the Bentley at this time. OK, lets move on but the BMW bug had been planted.
Inspired by the BMW I thought to look at the car supermarket chain Big Motoring World. A journey on a misty Kent morning lead me to their huge dystopian German exec car parking lot in BlueBell Hill. Unfamilar with the process, and it is a process, I was called to the reception desk and asked to register. Then led to a desk where a badly dressed young sales man was waiting for me. It felt a bit like speed dating with a call centre avatar. We then went through the website again which was something I had already done the night before but we had to follow a process. With the expert help of my new date we picked out two cars that I wanted to look at and we proceeded to the car lot. At this time the Bentley was undergoing an appraisal by someone called Shaun. The target car was a 2014 16k BMW 328i Luxury. I was impressed but I feared there would not be enough cash left over from the potential deal as the BMW was up for 16k. I was right. The offer on Sir Bentley just covered the cost of the car. I was told this as we entered back into the large hangar like negotiation zone. People everywhere, sipping coffee whilst children refuse to sit still, unshaven pasty skinned car sales men wearing outside coats sit at coffee tables telling people how much their dream will cost them per calendar month. My salesman was taken up with another task temporarily leaving me alone to ponder the deal. My mind soon wandered. Why was I here ? Its an awful place and the potential of leaving there with a middle of the road BMW for 16k began to turn my stomach. With the distinct lack of romance of the situation I soon began to ponder existence in general. At that point I figured it be a good time to leave this repulsive environment.
Back to square one.
Stopping in on a dealer (horsepower motor centre) on the way home I was delighted to see a couple of Continental GT’s out on the lot. This place could be a good,responsible home for Sir Bentley. After all the care (/cash) I have poured into the car I really wanted to make sure it would go to a good home. It was late in the day which meant they were not able to evaluate the Bentley but in stock was a high mileage (122k) A3 3.2l S Line. However as it was so late the key safe had been locked. There was something about the A3 that I quite liked so I made plans to return for a drive later in the week.
Hoping to make more cash from the car I set up a private advert on Piston Heads classifieds. PistonHeads is cheaper and a better audience to Autotrader. Having spent eighty pounds on fruitless adverts on Autotrader already I was keen to see what PH could offer. What came of it were a selection of enquiries. The first offered 17k straight away, asked if they were a dealer they said no but the family is in the trade. We spoke and they seemed quite genuine yet I held them off as I wanted to see what the garage with the A3 could do. The next enquiry was from a man in Kensington who would buy cars and lease them to overseas students who were studying in England. Eventually probably shipping the cars back with the student to China. I was impressed with the business idea but not the idea of a student driving around a car that I had worked for ten years to own and spent a small fortune to maintain. Third up was an enquiry from someone who was overseas but returning to England in the next few days and they would like to come see the car and buy it. That was fine and we started to work out where we could meet and if they had any more questions. They then asked for more pictures of the car (Further to the 23 pics on the advery) and a picture of the V5 and MOT. I obliged but blanked out all address details. They then told me that it looked good and wanted to know when can we meet and whether if Id prefer cash or bank transfer. It is something in the way this email was written that increased my suspicions. I asked them specifically what was it about this car that made them enquire. I never received an answer. Following was more red flags. The buyer offered to pay a 1000 GBP deposit but to do so I needed to provide a copy of a passport or driving license as their bank needed proof of ID. This was in a very poorly written email too. This isn’t right. In all my knowledge I cannot think why this would be needed to set up a payment so I asked for their phone number so I could call them so we could speak direct. They did not give a number but they said that they wanted to verify that I was a real person before they headed out on a long journey. I can appreciate apprehension however this appeared to be backwards. Why would I not be a real person. I responded with my concerns in full and how the risk is with me and they have answered none of my due diligence questions. I have heard nothing back since. **READ the FULL email TRANSCRIPT HERE
What I can gather is that this was a scam to clone my car. I had given them all the necessary documents for the car and if I had given them my ID then they could have achieved a full clone of my car. They still might have, I need to be sharp to any potential letters or activity on the car. It took poorly written emails, no information from them and odd requests to make raise suspicions. As it turns out a week later my bank called to say they have intercepted a suspicious payment, they were right. My card had been hacked and luckily this payment was just a test. A USD payment for 2$. I alerted Piston Heads to the activity and they blacklisted that email address, the email address was probably hacked too. All I can think of is that they had gotten enough information from me to try a test payment. Luckily HSBC are super hot on this and they called right away.
There we go, still no station car and the fail safe of We Buy Any Car is looming nearer and nearer. Maybe Horse Power can come up with the goods on this old S Line and make a good offer on the Bentley ? Maybe a genuine buyer will buy sir Bentley from the Piston Head avert? With only two weeks to fix, the car I am borrowing form a very generous friend has to be returned, I need to get my skates on.
In the meantime, a pubic warning; if it appears strange, it probably is. Trust your instincts. Remember that, trust your gut.