Illegal car sales on the increase

Illegal car sales on the increase

Released on 29 March 2012



Selling a car which you do not yet own is the most common type of car fraud, according to figures released today by the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) to coincide with Car Crime Awareness Week.

‘Conversion fraud’ – where motorists sell cars they do not own – accounted for almost 40% of all car finance frauds in the last three months of 2011. This represented around a 10% increase in this type of fraud over the same period in the previous year.

If you buy a car on finance, you are not the legal owner of that car until you have made all the payments. Until that point, the finance company owns the car, and you are the registered keeper. If you sell the car, you are committing fraud, as you are selling property that is not yours.

Motor finance fraud cases overall fell by 2% in 2011 compared with 2012. The value of motor fraud cases also fell in 2011 to £13.6 million, down by 7% on 2010. There were a total of 197 cases of motor finance fraud in the last quarter of 2011, and 815 over the year as a whole.

FLA member finance companies prevented around 7,400 cases of attempted fraud in 2011. This avoided £95 million of fraudulent deals, which helps keep finance costs down for car buyers.

Paul Harrison, the FLA’s head of motor finance, said:

“While it may be tempting to sell your car if you are in financial difficulties, if you do so without speaking to your finance company first then you may be classified as a fraudster. It’s important that the owner of the car – the finance company – knows who is driving that car at all times, as required under the terms and conditions of a credit agreement.

“As part of this week’s third annual Car Crime Awareness campaign, we are telling car finance customers about their rights and how to protect themselves against being the victim of fraud – or inadvertently committing fraud.”

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Note to editors:

If you are buying a used car, make sure you don’t buy one of these cars that are sold on finance:

  • Do a history check with CDL (, Experian ( or HPI (, and make sure you buy a full history. It’s a small cost compared with the cost of the car and will give you peace of mind.
  • A comprehensive car history check will give you a full description of the car and its past ownership, and should tell you if there is outstanding finance on it. It will also tell you the mechanical history of the car – whether it has been in an accident or scrapped, whether it has had its mileage adjusted, and whether it has ever been recorded as stolen.
  • When buying a car, new or used, do your research. Know what to expect from the make, model and age of the vehicle – if the deal looks like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Check the car thoroughly for damage, and make sure the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) match the documents.
  • Take the car for a test drive. If buying a used car, consider having it checked out by an auto mechanic.
  • Consider in advance how you will pay for the vehicle. Cash can be dangerous, particularly if meeting a private seller at an unfamiliar address. Always meet the seller at their residential address, and never – for example – in a pub car park or petrol station.
  • If buying a vehicle on the web, ensure you’ve done all your checks before transferring any payment.


Car Crime Awareness week is organised by the Finance & Leasing Association and the ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS) and runs from 26-30 March 2012.

AVCIS is a national police unit dedicated to investigating and recovering fraudulently-obtained vehicles, and prosecuting offenders. The FLA has sponsored the Vehicle Fraud Unit of AVCIS since September 2007. Acting as the eyes and ears for the police, contributing finance companies are able to report suspected fraudulent cases to the unit for investigation, recovery and prosecution of fraudsters.

The FLA is the leading trade association for the motor finance sector in the UK. FLA members provided £19.8 billion of motor finance in 2011 and financed more than 60% of all private new car registrations in the UK.

For further media information, please contact:

Russell Hamblin-Boone, FLA

T: 020 7420 9656 E: M: 07810 374110

Helen Saxon, FLA

T: 020 7420 9664 E: M: 07918 766 993