How do I avoid being scammed when buying plant machinery? Good question with no straight forward answer to protect us all.  The best any of us can do is look out for the signs and never ignore your gut feeling – if something looks too good to be true, it generally is.  Most importantly, never part with any money until you are 100% sure you are dealing with a genuine seller.

So how do they do it? The main activity of fraudulent sellers is to offer for sale non-existent goods or services either by way of dummy websites, which are easily created almost overnight to look and seem authentic or via on line selling platforms, unfortunately this activity is increasing at an alarming rate and with the ever growing world of technology providing these fraudsters with endless opportunities to reach us all we need to be extra vigilant in order to avoid falling prey to them.

With the threat of fraud being an issue in everyday life, it also seems to be a growing problem within the plant and construction industry where there are big gains for the scammers in offering used plant machinery and equipment to the unsuspecting buyers who are keen to look for a bargain, especially in our current financial climate where saving money is essential.

However, this isn’t to say that every bargain on offer is fraudulent, there are some great and reputable buyers who will offer the occasional bargain to a lucky buyer fortunate enough to stumble across it, and careful execution of your detective skills will ensure a good deal for you and your pocket.

So where to start your cross examination you ask? There are various points to looks for when you are going to purchase plant machinery, here are a few hints and tips on what to look out for to avoid being scammed:-

Who am I buying from?

  • Is the Seller a registered company?  If so you can conduct a free online check through WebCheck at Companies House (outside the UK? You will be able to conduct similar checks for companies registered in your country a simple web search should give you the details if available). This isn’t 100% foolproof though as company details are available to download for as little as £1. If they are using another companies details, again, you should be able to locate this company if they are still operating and check you are dealing with them and not a scammer using their details.  If they have recently changed their name and the scammer is using their old name this information will also be available free via Companies House or you can use www.companycheck.co.uk which will give you a little more information on Directorships which might be useful.

Found a lovely website offering machinery at great prices? You’ve never heard of them before? What can I do to see if they are genuine?

  • Firstly, find out when this site was created – if it’s just “cropped up” over night then be very wary – a good place to check the domain name is www.whois.sc, by typing in the domain name you can get information on when it was created and other relevant history which could be helpful in telling the fraudster from the genuine seller.
  • What telephone is on the website? Be wary if you are only being offered a mobile number or a number other than a genuine landline number – this should set alarm bells ringing, why haven’t they offered a landline? If they are offering a landline number then check it out in the telephone directory or online – if they are a registered, genuine company there should be some listing for them.
  • Are they a UK Company offering their equipment for sale in Euros instead of GBP? Why is this? Surely a UK company would offer their prices in GBP – this is often a mistake worth spotting!
  • Are all the machines offered for sale pictured with lots of different backgrounds? Why is this – could it be they have taken the pictures from other websites – if they are scammers this will be the case, look out for this as genuine sellers will usually take their own pictures of the equipment in their possession within their premises, therefore all pictures should generally look as though they were taken within the same location.
  • What address for “Contact” has been given? It would be easy to conduct a Google search on the address www.maps.google.co.uk and look at the "Street View" – does it look like a yard or industrial premises where you would keep plant machinery or from which a business might reasonably be conducted?  Some online companies do operate from residential areas but they wouldn’t store large machinery there, especially if they are offering it in abundance.

The above tips give you resources to check on web addresses and company set ups – but what else can you do and should you look out for? In essence you should consider the following:-

  • You need to make sure you are buying from reputable plant dealers – do your research!
  • Check to see what other machinery of that year and type are selling for elsewhere – make comparisons - if it is selling at a steal then ask yourself WHY???
  • Check the company details, address and phone numbers supplied – are they legitimate – is the seller happy to receive calls rather than just emails. You will find a fraudulent site will mainly deal with you via emails rather then over the phone.
  • Check the land line number, if you tap it into a search engine they will usually give away any information and you should find the company straight away.
  • Be aware of these scammers using reputable companies details, address, land line numbers etc – this is a tricky one especially if you are dealing with the “seller” via email only – make sure you call and speak to someone direct – as the reputable company will set you straight
  • When you speak to the seller ask them technical questions about the machinery you are going to buy – they should know the ins and outs of it and if they don’t…. be suspicious.
  • The existence of a website proves nothing - impersonating a company is easy – if you are willing to part with your cash over a few emails you WILL lose your money
  • Go and see the machinery you wish to purchase  - even if it is miles and miles away – you would not buy a house without looking at it first – think along the same lines – do not trust what you can’t see
  • Meet the seller!
  • Be wary if the seller is claiming to be in your country but the machinery is not
  • Ask for copies of receipts, service records and equipment logs, if they own the machine they should have some history for it.
  • Most multi-ads will show the machinery photographed in the same place - if they have different backgrounds or were taken at various times of the year – be cautious – sellers usually tend to update the photographs of their machinery
  • Be apprehensive if you receive emails from shipping companies, rather than sellers – the scammers can have other third parties acting as shipping companies, transport companies etc. All to get you to part with your money.
  • Never give your credit card details – unless you can verify who you are speaking too
  • Above all do not make a transaction until you have seen the machine/seller and are 100% happy with what you are buying.

Don’t be a victim to these fraudsters, enough research will help you in making the right decision and if you are in any doubt do not take the risk! If you feel that you have become a victim to one of the scams you can seek advice from the following:-

Police

Report Action Fraud

Trading Standards Officer

Use good judgement when checking through resources and documents – scams are becoming ever more sophisticated in order to convince the buyer of their authenticity in a bid to get their cash! At Totallyplant.com we strive to provide potential buyers with knowledge and recommendations in order to assist them in ensuring they are buying from a reputable seller. We do our best to ensure that those seeking to place advertisements are genuine, however potential buyers must exercise caution and trust their own instincts when dealing with and buying used plant machinery and construction equipment.

These notes are not exhaustive, there are many methods that criminals will use to extort money from innocent parties. Conducting thorough research and using good business acumen should assist you in making the right decisions and remember if you have any doubts then don’t take any risks!

These hints and tips are provided for guidance only – Totallyplant.com Ltd does not take any involvement in the negotiations or agreements conducted between the seller and the buyer nor does it provide recommendations or guarantees to the authenticity of any individuals, companies or organisations.

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