Used-car racketeering takes resident for a ride in Qatar
Investing in a used-car is the first choice for many residents, especially if it’s a second car. And there is no dearth of used cars, given the revolving doors of expatdom. Since authorised dealers charge a premium, many look at direct sale with the owner. These sales are usually facilitated through online forums.
However, the experience of one resident, has exposed what seems to be a used car racketeering that has affected more than a few buyers.
B.P. spoke to JustHere about his harrowing experience, and a resolution that involved great determination and planning.
Two weeks ago B.P., on the lookout for a vehicle for his wife, came across a classified post online of a “First-owner, Lady-driven” Nissan X-Trail 2009. It seemed like a reasonable enough deal of QR45,000.
B.P immediately set up a meeting with the seller, who called himself Mohammed. “On inspecting the car, it had a few bumps and scratches, but that wasn’t a major concern. I test-drove it down the block, and it seemed fine. I asked to get the computer test done, but the guy told me that another potential customer already did it the previous day, and showed me the results. They score was 97%. Finding no faults, I agreed on the deal.”
But within days of taking possession of the car, he realised that the deal was not quite right.
The car broke down a couple of times. On checking with the mechanic, he learnt that the car had been doctored to show 42,000 kms, but had certainly done between 120,000 to 150,000 kms. The gearbox was damaged too. “This was clearly an old car. It would have cost me QR10,000-12,000 to bring the car back into a perfect working condition.”
B.P. knew he was conned, and was now desperate to get hold of the scamster, and most importantly get his money back.
What followed was days of online research. He looked up social media channels to try and get hold of him, but the seller was nowhere to be found. “Mohammed had introduced himself as an employee of Qatar Airways, so I called up the airlines and enquired about him. They said they would investigate.”
And as he had suspected, there was no such employee within the organisation.
Next, he searched online based on the mobile number used by the seller, which revealed similar posts made on Qatar Living by this number. There was a pattern to this. Every few days, the vendor put out one new car online. All offers that seem too good to resist.[boxify cols_use =”1″ cols =”2″ position =”right” box_spacing =”10″ padding =”10″ background_color =”#3c3c3c” ]
Checklist before buying a used car
A tough lesson definitely, but one learnt well, BP advises customers who plan to buy used cars online to do their due diligence.
- Beware of posts selling ‘First-owner, lady driven cars’, as these posts are sometimes part of a scam.
- Get the car personally checked by a mechanic. Don’t rely on computer tests as some owners use special oil supplements to make the car high-powered for a short duration just to pass the test.
- Check the quality of the tyres, including the spare tyre.
- Note down the last six digits of the engine number, and call up the dealership’s service centre to enquire about the car’s service history. You can also get the full ownership and accident history from the traffic department.
- When test-driving the car, don’t just drive at slow speeds, take the car on the freeway and see how it performs at higher speeds (a little over 100km/hr) – shaking and poor power are often signs of engine problems.
However, the seller turned off his mobile the moment the car was sold – he had 10 numbers, all turned off except when a car was being advertised. When the next car came on sale from this number, B.P. asked a couple of his friends to bid for one of the cars on sale. A meeting was set up to inspect the car at a parking lot near the Radisson Blu Junction.
Once his friends started ‘inspecting’ the car, B.P joined them. As soon as Mohammed saw B.P., he tried to make a quick escape, in vain.
While the seller didn’t confess outright about the racket, he did admit that he was terrified of being reported to the police, and hence was trying to run away. He also admitted that he had ‘only sold 6 cars’ so far. “He didn’t argue when we accused him of ruining people’s lives or contravening his religious beliefs. Also, he works in a garage in the Industrial Area, and not Qatar Airways as he told me.”
What ensued was hours of haggling. “We sat at a restaurant and gave him the option of buying back the vehicle or sorting it out immediately with the authorities. A family member had joined him, and they agreed to buy back the vehicle. They paid QR30,000 immediately, and paid the rest the following day when I transferred the ownership. It was over in under 18 hours.”
A post on Qatar Living warns people of the scams carried out by the seller mentioned in the article.
A scan of the most popular online vendor sites reveals several similar transactions from this person. Note the repeated usage of ‘lady-driven’ and ‘first owner’.
Apparently, when a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is.