Victoria Police detectives are currently investigating an online car scam that has already claimed multiple Victorian victims.
Operation Approbate has been established by the Boroondara Crime Investigation Unit to investigate the online scam which has seen eight people from across the state purchase a second-hand car online that does not exist.
As part of the ongoing investigation, detectives are working with victims to determine the circumstances around the deception and also tracing where the stolen funds are ending up.
Victoria Police has also made contact with all other interstate and federal police agencies to determine the prevalence of this scam and whether there are other victims.
Detectives are requesting anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this online car scam or has any further knowledge in relation to this matter to come forward.
To date, Operation Approbate has located eight victims from places including Knox, Casey, Keilor Downs, Gippsland, and Maryborough, but Detective Senior Sergeant Brendan Pollock believes there may be more unreported victims.
“Unfortunately, we believe this issue, which has seen thousands of dollars fraudulently taken, is not restricted to Victoria.
We’re treating this matter with the utmost seriousness; we have a dedicated operation in place to investigate this scam and we won’t stop until we hold these people to account.”
Police believe the scammers may be operating from an overseas location and are warning consumers to be vigilant when purchasing cars online.
“In this instance, the car is usually listed on a well-known car sales website for a far cheaper than usual price, so appears to be the perfect bargain,” said Detective Senior Sergeant Pollock.
When the interested buyer contacts the car-seller, they claim to be a member of the armed forces based in Tasmania or somewhere similar, stating they are about to be moved offshore and need to quickly sell their vehicle.
The seller claims the armed forces will transport the vehicle anywhere in Australia, free of charge.
Detective Senior Sergeant Pollock says the identification provided by the seller is generally a female holding a Victorian driver’s license -further placing the victim at ease.
“Another hallmark of this scam sees victims asked to submit payment into an escrow account – sadly as part of our investigations, these funds appear to end up in a bank account in Romania or Poland.”
Detective Senior Sergeant Pollock said it was disappointing to see every day Australians targeted by opportunistic scammers.
“More and more people are turning to online shopping when buying a new car and we’re encouraging them to be mindful of the websites they visit.
The best protection against on-line scams is awareness so we are asking everyone to spread the word and warn their families and friends to avoid handing over money to these schemes.”