Touring Caravan Scams

The second-hand market holds many advantages for touring caravan buyers. Buying a used holiday vehicle gives you the pick of a huge range of models, while also presenting the opportunity to bag a bargain.When it comes to buying second hand, you can be assured of a dealership’s integrity if it is part of the National Caravan Council’s (NCC) Approved Dealership Scheme. Dealerships which are involved in the scheme, such as Salop Leisure, operate under a stringent Code of Practice.

But in a second hand market which is so wide and diverse – encompassing a variety of other dealers, as well as online and print listings from private sellers – how can you ensure that you don’t fall for caravan scams? In this article we offer pointers on staying safe, and ask an industry insider for their advice.

So here are some tips to steer clear of scammers:

Never agree to a ‘blind’ payment

You might not believe that you’d ever be hoodwinked into parting with money for a used caravan until you have actually seen it, but scammers have a subtle way of drawing you in. Let’s say you have spotted an online listing you are interested in and have communicated with the seller. They might complain that they are sick of time wasters, and therefore want you to transfer the money - by PayPal, Western Union or a similar method - before the vehicle is handed over.

This should set off alarm bells straight away. Scammers have been known to accept payment before suddenly deleting their listing and breaking off communication. Don’t fall for these caravan selling scams! Some of the tricksters responsible might not even be based in the UK.

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Keep an eye out for stolen vehicles

Unfortunately there is the potential for stolen touring caravans to come onto the second hand market. Thankfully there are a few tell tale signs which can alert us to the possibility that we are looking at a stolen vehicle.

Every caravan manufactured after 1992 should display a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) as part of the National Caravan Council’s (NCC) Caravan Registration Identification Scheme (CRiS). If you can’t see one, or it has been tampered with, it could be a sign that something is amiss. The absence of official documentation is another possible giveaway, as is the use of ‘stock’ photos from the internet in an advertisement, instead of photos of the caravan itself.

Finally, if you notice a damaged towing hitch, this could be another indicator that the second hand

touring caravan which you are looking at has fallen into criminal hands.

Beware of the ‘middle man scam’

Some sellers might use the pretense of a ‘middle man’ service in order to pull the wool over your eyes. How do these caravan sales scams work? They lure you in with a very generously priced caravan, and once you have expressed an interest in buying, tell you that they are away from the area and unavailable to meet up.

They then offer to complete the transaction using a bogus ‘middle man’ service, which can send you an official-looking email, complete with logos and an operational website. This contains an invoice which is asking you to part with funds for a touring caravan which doesn’t exist. Never accept a ‘middle man’ service – always buy directly from the seller or dealership.

Watch out for the ‘deal of a lifetime’

If something looks too good to be true,  it usually is. If you think you have found an absolute steal, then make sure you question it. If it has all the specs, looks a million dollars and is available at a bargain price, your suspicions should be immediately aroused.

This is even more pertinent if there is no reason given for the slashed price, such as damage or missing amenities inside. If you get as far as considering a transaction, you should certainly forget all thoughts of a deal if the seller asks you to send a deposit in advance of picking up the vehicle. This is a common feature of recognised caravan purchase scams.

Anyone for phishing?

... as the newfangled spelling suggests, we aren’t talking about fish! Phishing refers to an illicit online activity which involves the ‘baiting’ of internet users in order to obtain their personal details, including bank information such as credit card numbers. Unfortunately, some criminals are using selling caravan scams to woo their victims.

If you are emailed by a seller, be very wary of following any links in an email. If you are directed to a caravan listing, be sure to type out the URL into the address bar on your browser, rather than clicking through from the email.

Don’t forget your HPI check!

When buying a used touring caravan, it is good practice to undertake an HPI check to observe the vehicle’s complete history, and ensure that this aligns with the information in the User’s Handbook which you should receive. This will allow you to check that there are no previously unknown finance issues which are attached to the vehicle.

Where possible, buy from an approved dealership

There are some enticing deals available on the second hand market, but for complete peace of mind, you should buy from a dealership which is fully approved by the NCC. Their Approved Dealership Scheme has established a benchmark for the used touring caravan industry in the UK, and sets out the key standards for selling a caravan which must be adhered to in its Code of Practice.

By buying your second hand touring caravan from an approved dealership, you are purchasing the vehicle from a company which has committed to:

-          Treat consumers fairly

-          Provide greater consumer protection and rights than required by law

-          Deliver high levels of customer satisfaction

-          Ensure access to low cost independent redress

The insider’s view

We caught up with John Sootheran, Managing Editor of Caravan magazine, and asked him about the level of threat which scammers pose to touring caravan buyers in the modern era: John said: “We spotted someone trying to place a dodgy private-sale ad in Caravan mag last year. The van was in Holland allegedly, and they’d deliver it once payment was made. Great van at a ridiculous price. If it looks too-good-to-be-true, it most likely is.” 

Resources and advice for second hand touring caravan buyers

The NCC offers a wealth of online resources for buyers of used touring caravans:

-          Check the location of your nearest Approved Dealership 

-          Secure your purchase by checking a caravan’s VIN with the Caravan Registration Identification Scheme 

-        Resolve a dispute with a dealership which is an NCC member 

-          Read advice on buying a leisure vehicle 

Salop Leisure is an NCC approved dealership which provides a leading range of second hand touring caravans to buyers in the Midlands and all over the UK. We offer all buyers a free overnight stay on our luxurious caravan touring site, Love2Stay, as well as a pre-delivery inspection and 12-month warranty.