This is quite some story. It was news to me, but perhaps you know someone who has also been a victim, or maybe you yourself, in which case this will resonate painfully.
I am keeping the names and places anonymous for obvious reasons, but here’s the tale.
A friend decided to sell her 4×4, partly because of the astronomical cost of fuel and partly because she no longer needed a vehicle to pull a trailer. She advertised the vehicle privately and was soon getting calls from prospective buyers. One guy seemed especially keen and she fixed up to show him the car.
He inspected it thoroughly and declared himself satisfied. There was just one thing … where was her husband?
For a split second, she wondered if this was a form of chat up (she’s very attractive), but then she realised that he was challenging the validity of the sale without a male present. He went on to clarify that he found it hard to believe that she – a mere woman – could own such a car. If he was to be assured of the sale’s legitimacy, he would need proof.
She reeled for a moment and then her considerable hackles were up! In a fury, she produced the documentation, including the V5, which he scrutinised. Even before he declared himself unwilling to proceed because ‘something did not feel right’, she had already decided not to sell the vehicle to him and told him so, in no uncertain terms.
He left and she calmed down and moved on …
Around two weeks later a caller asked if the vehicle was still for sale, and scoped out her availability for that coming week. She remembers thinking that he had a similar accent to the chauvinist, but that it definitely wasn’t the same man. Cautiously, she confirmed that it was and fixed to meet him.
He was a no show.
The whole sale process was beginning to stress her, but it was about to get a whole lot worse.
The very next day she got a letter from the DVLA thanking her for confirming that she was no longer the registered keeper of the vehicle.
Yes. You read that right. No longer the owner of her own 4×4, despite no sale having taken place and the car and its keys, logbook and everything else still very much in her possession.
She contacted the police, who were instantly, at great speed, totally …
… not bothered.
After all, she still had the vehicle. What was the problem? In any event, it wasn’t their thing, really … fraud and theft. Nothing they could do.
I know. Makes you want to scream, doesn’t it?
She rang the DVLA and held on for several hours before finally speaking to an advisor and explaining the situation.
“How do we know that YOU aren’t the thief? You need to prove to us that you are the real owner!” came the response.
She was gob-smacked.
“And”, they continued, “You can’t tax or drive that vehicle since it isn’t yours … technically. If it is in your possession, you must not use it, and you must keep it off the public highway. And your insurance is invalid, by the way.”
This floored her. She had been driving the car. She kept it on the street, having no driveway. What if she had been in an accident in the two weeks up to this bombshell?
Doesn’t bear thinking about.
How did it happen? It seems likely that the guy who wanted proof of ownership took a sneaky pic of the V5 or memorised the number.
Now she has to send in a counterclaim and wait in excess of six weeks for it to be processed and a new V5 issued. Two months in which she cannot insure or drive the car and has to find somewhere safe to keep it, off-road. Oh, and of course, she cannot sell it!
Will either or both of her weird callers come looking for it, or for her? Or are they taking advantage of a new system which allows the registration of a change of ownership online with NO physical paper back-up to use the fake ownership of the car as collateral for a loan?
Either way, she is in a terrible situation.
But what makes her and her partner’s gears grind is that the police are completely, nonchalantly and disgracefully unwilling to even entertain the idea that a crime has been committed, much less do anything about it. Even if it is nicked, they’ll probably shrug and say there’s nothing they can do beyond giving her a crime number for her insurance claim … an insurance claim which, in any case, won’t be valid.
What a bloody nightmare! I think we need to write to our MPs and make a formal complaint to the police. This could happen to any of us and, quite aside from the horrible feeling that comes with being a victim of crime, for those of us in rural areas the loss of our means of transport is a potentially life-changing blow.