Thinking of buying a caravan? Be aware of scams.

With no international travel on the horizon, many Australians are looking to buy a second-hand caravan or motorhome and hit the open road for their next holiday.

This is an exciting plan, however, there are a few things you need to be aware of before you spend thousands of your hard-earned dollars on something that might not be what is advertised. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's ScamWatch service said it received 303 reports mentioning "caravans", "motorhomes" or "campers" between January 1 and November 8 2020 — with over $200,000 in losses. Nearly 100 of those reports were from the last month, totaling about $70,000 in losses.

Here are some things you should look out for.

If you think something looks too good to be true, it is.

If something doesn’t feel right about the seller or caravan/motorhome, like the price is too low, do not exchange money and back away from the purchase. With scams on the rise it is times like these you need to trust your instinct.

Make sure the vehicle exists.

Always make sure that you inspect the caravan/motorhome in person and that it matches the advertisement. If you can't see it for yourself, organise for a trusted friend or family member to do it for you.

Ask the hard questions.

Don't be afraid to ask some hard questions. These include asking for the history and maintenance, the age, the last service, what trips the caravan/motorhome has been on, and any major problems to be fixed. It is important to bear in mind that if it is a private seller they may not be 100% transparent as everyone wants the best price, but it doesn't hurt to investigate more.

Is the website real or fake?

If you are looking to purchase caravan/motorhome from a retail website, make sure that it is a legitimate site and not a front for a scam. Find out exactly who you are dealing with. Do an online search for independent reviews of the company and anything that might indicate it might be a scam, such as a Google maps search to verify the company's physical address is genuine.

Check the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR).

It is important that people undertake checks to reduce the risk of repossession when purchasing valuable second-hand property privately. For only $2, you can get some peace of mind by searching the PPSR, a national online register that contains important information about second-hand property including:

  • safe from repossession;
  • not reported as written off; and,
  • not reported as stolen.

Find out more about PPSR checks.

Making payment.

When making an online payment, only pay for items using a secure payment service — such as credit card or a payment provider such as PayPal. Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin, as once your money has left your account, it is impossible to get back.

Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don't know or trust.

Lastly, if you think you have been scammed it is vital that you contact Defence Bank immediately as the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that you won’t get your money back.

Visit scamwatch.gov.au to read more about buying and selling scams.

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The scams and fraud pandemic.

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