Author: Michael

How to Spot a Fake NCT

Buying a car for sale with a full NCT is normally a good thing but we’ve seen a rise in the number of cars out there with fake NCT discs in the windscreen. This is because a seller can get a few hundred euro more from you for a car when you think it’s passed its NCT.

And all for printing out a little disc at home.

What they’re not thinking about is you. You’re left with a car you’ve paid too much for and that can possibly end up costing you money in repairs and retests when you realise that the NCT is fake. Worse again, if the Gardai discover it instead of you, you could end up with a seized car and a court appearance.

It pays then to do a car history check and/or only buy a TrustHub Verified vehicle. Just do one or the other! If you choose not to however (don’t), here’s a few pointers on how to spot a fake one:

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There’s two points here; the hologram and the serrated edge. Check that the new (green discs) or old (purple discs) hologram looks like the above. If the edge of the disc is smooth and not serrated like these ones, be suspicious. Ask to take the disc out and examine it, making sure that the hologram isn’t stuck on with glue and that the watermark is present when holding the disc up to the light.

No matter what, always ask to see the full NCT certificate (the disc is one corner of this) and make sure it’s valid. If you’re told that the certificate is missing then be very careful indeed. We would recommend walking away!

Overall, use your common sense, only buy a TrustHub Verified vehicle (we check these things for you) and always get a car history check – there’s plenty of providers out there.

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The Rising Cost of Car Insurance

There has been a lot of coverage in the papers recently about the rising cost of car insurance – there’s even a protest planned about it in Dublin on the 2nd of July. Insurance companies have claimed that this is due to the rising cost of awards and legal fees given out in courts. This is disputed by the legal professions however.

Who to believe? And what can you do about your insurance? Well one thing is to shop around. Never go direct to an insurance company – always use a broker. But more than that, never just go to one broker, ring around a few. And I mean ring, it’s much easier to get a deal when you ring. Get a quote from the broker over the phone and then tell the broker what the quote was from the other (as long as it’s lower) and repeat until you’re sure it’s the lowest possible. Other than that there’s little you can do. Insurance companies all have different risk profiles that they price in but keep those profiles secret.

A more radical proposal would be to take the power out of their hands altogether. At the moment the law states that you must buy insurance from a private provider. This means that companies have a captive market. What if you didn’t have to do that? Why not follow a model like in New Zealand? There your third party insurance is part of your road tax. Better again, it is also priced into fuel so that the more you drive (or the bigger engine) the more insurance you pay for. Sounds fair!

You can still buy more comprehensive insurance but it’s a lot cheaper and it takes the power away from insurance companies who can no longer charge what they like. The only drawback is that the risk is not fully priced in for particularly bad drivers. That could be adjusted for; if your record is bad you may be charged more to tax your vehicle for example.

It’s something to think about – let us know if you dis/agree!

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The Curse of Keyless Entry

This recent video of a car being stolen from a the driveway of a house without the keys demonstrates a new and rising trend amongst car thieves.

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/watch-moment-keyless-bmw-stolen-from-driveway-of-dublin-home-34668315.html

For many years the improvement in car security features meant that car thieves had to break into your house to get the keys to start your car – now they need merely stand outside.

So how are they doing it? It’s a simple concept – many new cars come with keyless entry or ignition. You need only have the key on your person for you start or open the car. This convenient system is based on radio signals given out by the key and received by the car. If the signal is strong enough it must mean you’re nearby. Or are you? What the criminals here are doing is using a signal repeater to amplify the weak signal given out by the key so that the car thinks it’s much closer that it actually is. So although your car keys are on the hall table, the car thinks they’re right beside it.

The equipment needed to trick the car is relatively simple to buy or assemble so as criminals cotton on, this will be come more widespread. When it first started happening many people were disbelieved by their insurance company when their car was stolen and were never compensated. That’s still a risk today.

What do I need to know about it?

As a car owner you need to know that it may be possible with your car. Don’t worry though, it’s simple to prevent by keeping your car key in a metal container – like a biscuit tin – that prevents the signal from escaping.

If you’re buying a car you should know that this type of theft is possible. Although most of the cars stolen this way will be broken for parts it is always wise to check two things when it comes to keys:

  1. Is there two of them? – You don’t want the car stolen later that week by the ‘seller’ using the second one.
  2. Can you turn the ignition of the car off and back on again? If you can’t, walk away then and there.

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Spotting a fake Vehicle Registration Certificate

There has been an upsurge recently in fake documents, like NCTs, used to trick buyers into purchasing stolen or unroadworthy vehicles. Some of the more sophisticated car criminals will try to fake a Vehicle Registration Certificate (VRC) to match the identity of the stolen car they’re selling. Some of these can be very good but there are some tell-tale signs that they’re fake. Hundreds of people every year send off this certificate to the National Vehicle Drivers File only to have the Gardai call around to pick up the stolen car they tried to register in their name. They lose the car and the money they paid for it. If the ‘seller’ lets the buyer keep the VRC that should ring alarm bells too – the seller should always send it to the NVDF themselves.

In Ireland the vehicle registration certificate is quite a high security document (Vehicle Licencing Certificates, VLC, for pre-2004 sold cars are not covered here). Bearing in mind that a good criminal will fake their name and address and the car chassis number to match what’s on it, there are two easy ways to help you decide if the VRC is genuine on the spot. The first is opening it up and holding it up to the light. You’re looking for the security thread near the centre of the two pages that is like a dashed line. This thread says “TEASTAS CLARAITHE” in small writing and in negative on the dashed parts. As below:

securitythread

The second easy (but less reliable) way is the colour changing ink on the back. This special ink (thermochromatic ink) changes from purple to white at body temperature. It’s the purple circle found on the back of the VRC where the new owner signs (see below). Place your finger on it for at least five seconds and when you take it off the circle should have turned white/lilac. Be warned though this might not work in cold places or not work at all due to some certificates being poorly printed.

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There are a few other ways to check on the roadside, but never feel pressured into buying a car. Take the time to do a car history check. One of the best ways to decide if a VRC/VLC is genuine is to check the certificate’s serial number with a history check. Have a look at MyVehicle.ie if you’d like to do that. We would obviously always recommend buying TrustHub Verified vehicle – we’ve done a lot of the hard work for you!

Just look for the lock.

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What is an insurance write off?

If a vehicle has been in an accident, an insurance company may send out an assessor to decide what level of damage has been done to it. They will place it in one of four categories and you should be aware of these when buying or selling a vehicle. Vehicles classed as Category A or B should never see the road again. Vehicles classed as Category C or D are potentially salvageable but will be considerably reduced in value and you should consider the economic value of buying or selling one. Below is a more in depth explanation of each category.

Category A —  is the most severe level of damage and should under no circumstances end up back on the road. It may not even be in a fit state to used for parts eg. flood or fire damage.

Category B —  is the second most serious level of damage and like Category A should under no circumstances end up back on the road. The majority of Category B vehicle are classed as end of life. They may either be destroyed or broken apart for non-safety critical parts.

Category C —  vehicles will have suffered some form of significant damage in the past, however the insurance company decided that the parts and labour involved in repairing this vehicle would have been more expensive than replacing it. This is called ‘beyond economical repair’. Category C vehicles are normally sold on to salvage dealers who either strip for parts or repair and put them back on the road.

If buying a Category C vehicle it would be advisable to get an inspection by a qualified mechanic or assessor to report on whether the vehicle has been safely repaired. A Category C Vehicle is worth considerably less than an identical vehicle that has never been written off. Normal depreciation percentage would be approximately 20% depending on the quality of the repairs.

Category D —  vehicles will have suffered some form of damage in the past, but of a lower level than a Category C write-off. An insurance company decided however still decided that repairing this vehicle would have been more expensive, perhaps due to the cost of covering a rental car or waiting for parts, than replacing it.  The same advice applies as with buying a Category C write-off.

Our advice when buying a car is to make sure it is TrustHub Verified and that you do a car history check on it from one of the many providers out there. If it comes back as a insurance write-off then consider it carefully, it may be worth it to you for the reduced price, but do get an inspection done if you’re still interested.  http://www.MyVehicle.ie for example can provide both.

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How to choose a dealer

We here at TrustHub HQ are on a mission to make private sales of cars safer but sometimes you just won’t be able to find the car you’re after privately and you’ll want to visit a dealer. So far so good but the next problem is which one? How do you choose which dealer you can trust? We know many fly-by-night operators who set up and within a year shut down only to pop up again under a new name. They do this when the amount of complaints gets too much – by shutting down the company they can avoid their legal liabilities.

Our advice is to make sure the dealer is a member of a reputable trade organisation. Sound simple? It very nearly is. Some disreputable dealers move into premises with the trade organisation’s logo still on the wall and may even put their logo on their website in the hopes they won’t be spotted, so always do a internet search on them through the body they say they’re a member of.

If you’re buying a vehicle in the UK the organisations to look for are:

If you’re buying in Ireland check out this website:

Being a member of a trade association like those above mean that they have to subscribe to a code of conduct and gives you extra reassurance. There are many independent dealers who we would be happy to deal with too so don’t discount them. If you need more advice don’t be afraid to get in touch with us @TrustHubHQ

By the way, as we’ve previously talked about, sometimes dealers can pose as private sellers to get around their statutory duties and offload a poor quality vehicle (a lemon). We try to prevent this at TrustHub using our internal controls but if you discover a dealer posing as a private seller you can stop others falling for their tricks by getting in touch with us on twitter @TrustHubHQ and we’ll add them to our blacklist.

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Bank drafts – should you accept them?

Good question. The answer, as is often the case, is it depends. Some people think that bank drafts are just as good as cash but they’re wrong – you have to take precautions. Bank drafts are an attractive target for fraudsters because they’re easier to fake than cash and yet make them appear legitimate. Your account may initially be credited with the amount on the draft too but that won’t last long.

Fraudsters will pay for your vehicle with a bank draft, immediately advertise it (or may have it up on another website already) for below market value then sell it for cash. When you discover the bank draft is fake a week or so later you report the car stolen and the unsuspecting buyer has the car taken from them if it can be found. One person recently lost €40,000 this way and this scam regularly happens to innocent buyers and sellers. Misery for everyone but the happy fraudster.

Our advice is that you can accept bank drafts under certain circumstances. The best advice is to enter the bank branch with the prospective buyer and watch them receive the draft at the counter and immediately hand it over to you. Don’t wait outside the branch and don’t let them distract you enough to switch it with a counterfeit one.

If you can’t do that then you should get details of the bank draft in advance and check with the bank that it is legitimate and from the bank/branch it is said to be from. Also get and note the identification of the buyer – if they’re unwilling to provide these details then walk away from the deal.

Fraudsters go to great lengths to make bank drafts appear legitimate including glueing genuine holograms on it so don’t rely on your eyes. They’re also expert at crafting stories to hook you and may pay over the odds for your vehicle to entice you to accept the fake bank draft. If it seems too ‘convenient’ or too good to be true then it probably is.

Two final points – never refund any difference in the value of the bank draft and the vehicle especially if the person is offering to post the draft to you and you ship the car to them – that’s a guaranteed scam – and don’t accept cheques because they can be canceled after they’re issued.

Happy buying and selling and drop us a line on twitter @TrustHubHQ if you have any questions!

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Counterfeit cash and how to spot it

One of the main sticking points in any transaction is how to get paid. This is especially true when you’re meeting a stranger to buy or sell your car. Most cars are worth at least a few hundred quid and dealing with that amount of cash can be a worry – but don’t worry, TrustHub is here to help.

Cash has its advantages – it’s quick, you know when you have it in your hand that you’ve gotten paid and it feels more satisfying than lodging a bank draft. Fair enough – but it might not all be plain sailing. There’s always a chance that the person you’re dealing with will pass you fake notes.

So how can you spot a counterfeit note?

Strangely, the best way is not to use your eyes! Every wondered why the shop assistant insists on subtly rubbing their thumb over your note? All Euro notes have raised print on them (called intaglio printing) that you can feel with your finger and is very hard to fake. On the old versions this is contained in a small rectangle just to the right of the large 10/20/50 in the top right corner (See the picture below). Run your thumbnail over these ridge and check to see they don’t come off. Some criminals have tried putting creases in the paper to simulate the edge but it should feel very defined.

fiftyeurosecurity

In the new versions of the €5, €10, €20 notes, this raised print runs along both ends of the note. But wait, they’ve got holograms right? Well, the holograms are often faked in counterfeit notes with varying effectiveness. Luckily in the new €20 note there’s a nifty new security feature in the hologram. If you hold the note up to the light there is now a window on the right hand side where you can see the face of a woman (Europa herself).

twentyeurosecurity

So, is that everything? No, there’s a few other tips we have:

Avoid large denominations as these are often used by criminals. In fact they’re considering removing €500 notes from circulation because they are almost exclusively used by criminals.

Check notes individually and don’t feel embarrassed to do this. The first few notes on the top or bottom (or both) may be genuine but conceal many more counterfeit ones underneath. This will give the appearance of a genuine sheaf of notes that will later turn out to be largely worthless.

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Transferring Ownership – the RF101

One of the most common mistakes we’ve seen when people buy or sell a vehicle is the transfer of ownership. This can range from a simple mistake, a mix-up of responsibilities or just plain old criminal intent.

When a vehicle is sold you must transfer the legal responsibility for it to the new owner – called the registered owner. This can be done easily in Ireland by filling out the back of the vehicle logbook (the RF101 aka Vehicle Registration Certificate) with the details of the new owner and then both parties signing it.

The two main problems that can befall buyers and sellers are failing to send the logbook to the NVDF (National Vehicle & Driver File) and incorrectly filling out the form.

As a seller your big pitfall is failing to send the logbook to the NVDF. Sometimes a con artist may try to pressure you into handing over the logbook when they pay for the car. NEVER DO THIS. They will most likely never register the car in their name and will continue driving it around and racking up fines in your name for which you are now legally responsible.

To avoid this make sure to ask for identification such as a driving licence and check that it matches the name and address of the buyer.  Then send the logbook to the NVDF YOURSELF.

As a buyer, make sure that you put the correct details on the logbook and sign in the correct position. If you make a mistake here you may not have full legal ownership of the vehicle you buy! When the seller sends the logbook to the NVDF it shouldn’t take longer than a couple of weeks to receive the new one in your name. In the meantime, you can check if they have sent the logbook by heading over to http://www.motortax.ie, selecting the Vehicle Transaction Enquiry option and entering the vehicle registration number. It will show if or when the change of ownership was received.

We can provide a sample contract for both parties that makes this process easier and more accountable for both sides – just tweet us @TrustHubHQ for a copy!

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What is clocking?

Clocking is the slang name for the crime of altering the odometer of a vehicle. It will almost always take the form of ‘rolling the clock back’ on a vehicle to make it appear that it has done less mileage. Criminals do this to increase the value of the car when they sell it. They don’t care that they’re ripping off buyers and possibly putting your safety at risk. When a car has been clocked you don’t know whether parts that are scheduled to be replaced at certain mileages have been replaced. So apart from risking your safety with an unroadworthy car, you may also end up paying far more fixing your car than you planned on.

Clocking only became a crime two years ago in Ireland but that doesn’t mean it has stopped. It has meant that criminals got a bit smarter about it and make it still harder to spot. It is estimated that 15% of cars are still clocked. Our advice is to:

  • Get a car history check – but make sure you do it on the right car eg. one verified by TrustHub.
  • Get a mechanic to have a look at it
  • Check the NCT certificate and the mileage history printed on it – TrustHub automatically does this for you.

There are also some clues to look out for whatever you choose to do. The average privately owned car does 17,000 km (10,500 miles) a year. One used for business may have 24,000km (15,000 miles) on the clock. If a car has substantially less mileage on the odometer than comparable examples look for:

  • excessive wear on the pedals
  • a shiny/worn steering wheel
  • worn gear knob
  • heavy wear and tear on the seats – for example sagging springs and worn seat covers

In general, you get a better deal when you buy and sell privately but you still have to keep your wits about you. Use TrustHub to help you buy and sell your car with confidence.

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