Used car scams: how a car can be ringed

When you buy a car you’re reliant on its identity being what it appears. 

However, things are not always what they seem, because it’s possible for a car to be stolen, then given the identity of a written-off car – a practice known as ringing. While this should still set alarm bells ringing, at least the car is legal, if not necessarily desirable, when it’s merely recorded as previously a write-off. 

You can guard against buying a ringer by inspecting the registration document closely and ensuring that the numbers on it match those in the car you’re viewing.

It’s possible for a car to be stolen, then given the identity of a written-off car

You then need to make sure that the car you’re looking at is the one that’s legally entitled to that identity. Look for evidence of chassis plates having been swapped; loose rivets is a classic giveaway.

Also look for evidence of a recent respray, and make sure you’re looking at the car on the seller’s drive. Those involved in ringing tend to be part of organised gangs that vanish without trace once you’ve paid for the car and taken it away.

If you do end up buying a ringer, don’t try to sell it on as you’ll be liable to prosecution. Tell the police and in the case of a purchase from a dealer, also tell Trading Standards. 

It’s essential that you don’t get taken in by this scam, because if you do you’ll lose the car (which belongs to the insurance company) as well as your money.