The internet has surely transformed lives in Africa. With increasing ease of access to the internet through smart phones and tablets this has meant that the world is truly a global village. A person in Mutorashanga in Zimbabwe can browse UK's Auto Trader looking for a car to buy. Now with the availability of high definition pictures and video they can vividly see the car they want to buy. Heady with mental images of themselves driving that car and with numerous ways of communicating like email, Skype, WhatsApp, they can contact a seller of the car they like arrange to wire the money for the purchase of that car as well as paying for its shipping until it gets to Zimbabwe.
It sounds easy, visit Auto Trader UK or Gumtree, choose a car within your budget, contact seller, arrange to pay through Western Union, ask the seller to arrange shipping which you also pay for and just wait until your baby to arrives. Unfortunately its far from easy, there a number of people who have been swindled huge amounts of money by a authentic looking advert in the Auto Trader or Gumtree. People have sent huge amounts of money over to someone they have never met.In the end they call freight forwarders like us because during negotiations they have been told that Savannah will ship the car on their behalf. The telephone number which was being enthusiastically answered prior to the transfer of the money now diverts all calls to voice-mail. The emails now go unanswered, WhatsApp and Skype has blocked you as a contact. That initial excitement in anticipation for a new purchase gives way first to anger and finally realisation that you have been fooled.
Many people choose not to speak about it, they fear to be labelled fools. Those that do acknowledge that they have been foolish vow not to buy anything from UK not to even trust reputable companies that have a successful track record of delivery. However while being scammed cannot be completely avoided the risks can be minimised.
- The first thing is to investigate the seller.
- Find if its an individual or a company.
- Avoid individual sellers, if its a company the questions that you need to ask is their Company Registration Number.
- Which you can investigate if it is a made up series of numbers of a genuinely registered company in England and Wales.
- With the registration number you can check the company via a free UK Companies House webcheck here, which in turn will tell you when the company started trading, whether they submit their accounts on time (which is a measure of trust in itself).
- The Companies House info will also tell you registered address of the company, the number of directors it has and their names.
- The second way of checking the genuineness of a UK is to see whether they are VAT registered, most car sellers by virtue of volumes of cars they sell and the and the amount of money they turnover will be VAT registered. To check the validity of a VAT registration you will have to ring up or email Her Majesty Revenue Services (HMRC) with the VAT number and ask if it is genuine they will happily answer that.
- Supposedly everything checks out this is a genuine company and they are surely VAT registered will only mean that it would be very unlikely that they can scam you. However you never know they might ship the car to you but it turns out to be a scrap not worth the money you paid for which is the same as being sold a phantom car.
- The next stage of seller verification involves professional procurement companies such as ourselves.
- What we do is we send an experienced and qualified motor vehicle mechanic who will examine the car, authenticate in he same process whether the seller is a genuine article.
- Once that has been done, the buyer can wire the money either directly to the seller or put it in an escrow account such as Paypal which only releases they money once goods have exchanged hands.
- An escrow account is highly recommended.
- If all fails it is important to engage a professional reputable company that will procure a vehicle within your budget in a transparent manner and ship it securely to its final destination
Its hard to loose hard earned money, so when buying vehicles from the UK please do take care!