Don’t fall victim to scammers who say your vehicle is being ‘recalled’

Car scam targets luxury, exotic and SUV owners

Don’t fall victim to scammers who have been contacting drivers in a ploy to get them to hand over their vehicle. No car dealership will offer to collect your car for a recall, ever.

The year-long syndicate targets Toyota, Hilux, exotic and luxury car owners.

In December 2019, a crime syndicate began targeting car owners in a recall scam. In February 2020, a white Lamborghini Urus was stolen under the pretence that the vehicle was unsafe to drive and needed to be recalled and replaced. The car was later discovered in Mozambique, according to Wheels24.

Throughout the course of the year, supercars and exotic vehicles have been stolen. A Bentley worth R5-million was among the roster of missing vehicles.

Criminals are not only targeting luxury vehicle owners though – Toyota Fortuner and Hilux bakkie owners are also on their hit-list.

‘Fraudsters are impersonating Toyota dealers and calling customers to inform them that their vehicle is part of a recall campaign with the intention of sending flatbeds to collect owners’ vehicles. Should there be a recall of Toyota vehicles or service campaigns of any kind, Toyota will not call you requesting the collection of your car. If you get a call from someone you believe is falsely claiming to be a Toyota employee, please contact the dealership in question directly to validate the information. Be vigilant and don’t get caught out,’ said Toyota in a statement.

The criminals are able to access owners details in a number of ways. They familiarise themselves with the dealership and the staff who work there, explained Anton Koen from No Jack vehicle tracker to Wheels24. They are able to obtain customer information, potentially through the National Traffic Information System (Natis) or by casing out showrooms and the customers who visit.

The Insurance Crime Bureau (ICB) and Dial Direct Insurance detailed the modus operandi of the syndicate when it first began.

The criminals then contact owners and string along an array of lies pertaining to the vehicle’s safety. The scammers claim the vehicle is unsafe to drive and that it needs to be recalled because of a dangerous malfunction.

‘Criminals execute a recall scam by contacting unsuspecting vehicle owners and posing as officials representing a car manufacturer — convincing the owners that their vehicle is part of a batch being recalled due to serious malfunctions,’ said Maanda Tshifularo, head of Dialdirect Insurance. ‘With the promise of a repaired or replacement vehicle, many people buy into this scam and end up losing tens or even hundreds of thousands of rand.’

‘This is often followed up with a spoof e-mail, with criminals going to great lengths to make their communication seem official. They convince vehicle owners that they shouldn’t drive their vehicle under any circumstances and make arrangements to collect it – most often using a tow truck,’ said Garth de Klerk, CEO of the ICB.

Dialdirect and the ICB advise drivers to do the following to prevent becoming a victim:

– Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media and telephonically, as criminals use this to build a detailed profile on their victim.

– Remember to be vigilant and maintain a healthy sense of scepticism when talking to strangers. If the stranger claims to be a representative of a car dealership, contact the dealership immediately to verify that they are an employee.

– Check with the manufacturer and/or dealership directly to verify that the recall is real. Never trust contact details provided by the person who called you.

– Report any suspicious calls to the authorities, the manufacturer and/or the dealership.

Picture: Women on Wheels gallery