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Motorcycle & vehicle buying scams. Common scams to identify and avoid.

Unfortunately, it seems anything that involves money these days attracts scammers. The used motorcycle market is no different. A number of scams are currently doing the rounds and we'll show a few tips below on how to identify the common ones. Note that the vast majority of buyers and sellers are honest, but occasionally you may encounter one of the scams listed below so it pays to err on the side of caution when buying or selling a motorcycle. If in doubt, walk away from the deal.

Scams affecting sellers:

Fraudulent/Dishonest Buyers

If selling your motorcycle, chances are that the buyer will visit your property to view the bike. Take a few precautions such as:

  • Make sure someone else is at home with you when the buyer visits.
  • Do not allow the buyer to view any more of your property than they need to (don't lead them past your collection of priceless Ming vases on the way to the bike!).
  • Try not to leave the buyer alone with the bike and ignition keys. Thefts have occurred when the buyer has asked the seller to fetch something like the log book and seller has returned to find both bike and 'buyer' gone.
  • Obviously, with a motorcycle, it is not always possible to accompany a buyer on a test ride. Make sure you obtain the cash price as a deposit prior to permitting a test.
  • Avoid any buyer who suggests using Western Union, Moneygram or Ukash (or any other 3rd party payment system you are not familiar with).

Vehicle Matching Scam

This is where a seller is cold called by a company stating that they have a buyer or client wanting a vehicle exactly the same as yours. They will use the hard sell and persuade you that the buyer has cash waiting and, for a 'small' fee ,they will put you in touch with the buyer. This 'small fee' is normally around £60-£100 and if you pay up, you will never hear from the company again. The buyer does not exist.

If contacted by one of these companies, end the conversation politely but firmly. If the caller says they represent Ride Trader, it is untrue. Ride Trader will NEVER contact you by phone about your ad. If you receive a call or email from anyone posing as a member of Ride Trader staff, please contact us immediately.

The Export Scam (or 419 Fraud)

This is normally received via email in the form of a poorly worded message from a foreign country (normally Africa, Netherlands, USA). The sender states they are a dealer who has a client overseas wishing to purchase your vehicle. They will offer to send a bank draft to cover the vehicle price + shipping cost to you and ask you to wire the shipping amount to their contact in the UK once you have paid the draft into your bank. Only after you have wired the shipping cost to their contact will you realise that the original bankers draft was a fake.

Ride Trader recommends that you do not sell any vehicles overseas or deal with any overseas buyers. Only deal with UK resident buyers who are willing to talk to you on the phone and only release a vehicle after your bank has confirmed funds have cleared.

A bankers draft is not cash and can be forged, stolen or cancelled. It is a common misconception that a bankers draft is as good as cash, IT IS NOT.

If you receive these emails, simply delete them and do not reply or acknowledge them.

False Escrow Service

An Escrow service is a way of transferring money or property via a neutral 3rd party company. This fraud can affect both buyers and sellers and involves the scammer using a fake escrow company which may appear legitimate and have a convincing website.

If a buyer or seller insists on using escrow and the escrow company is not a legitimate well known service then avoid. You will not see your money again.

Scams affecting buyers:

Fraudulent Sellers

Be cautious if a seller refuses to communicate via telephone and will only communicate via email. They may state that they are currently out of the country so can use email only. Be even more cautious if the mails you receive are poorly worded.

A seller may ask for a cash deposit in advance to secure the vehicle. Never provide a deposit without first meeting the seller and viewing the vehicle.

Avoid any seller who suggests using Western Union, Moneygram or Ukash (or any other 3rd party payment system you are not familiar with).


Clocking is a well known fraud and involves the seller tampering with the motorcycles odometer to reduce the displayed mileage. Check that:

  • The general condition and appearance of the motorcycle fits with the displayed mileage. Why has the apparently low mile bike got very worn footpegs and tank paint?
  • Check the instrument cluster has not obviously been opened and tampered with, any screwdriver marks where the case has been opened?
  • The mileage on previous MOT and service documentation matches the displayed mileage.

False Escrow Service

As explained above, avoid any sellers pushing to use an escrow service.

Stolen Bikes

Do your homework before visiting a bike to familiarise yourself with the location of the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Check how it should look beforehand and, if it appears to have been tampered with, walk away. Also check the VIN tallies up with the number stated in the bikes documentation.

Avoid any bike that are advertised for sale at well below list price without a good reason, it could be a stolen bike that the seller wants off his hands quickly.

It also also a good idea to run a check of the bike using one of the many vehicle history checking service available via companies such as the RAC.

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