Car companies warn of theft syndicates trying to scam owners

Durban – A security expert has called for car dealerships to conduct investigations into the operations of syndicates that accesses personal information of their clients in order to steal their vehicles.

The head of the crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham, suggested that dealerships should also get their IT departments to track down syndicates that could be hacking their systems.

The syndicates’ modus operandi includes pretending to have been sent by dealerships to conduct a systems upgrade on vehicles.

They approach vehicle owners with information about the vehicle’s registration, the owner’s details and get them to hand over their keys.

Newham described the act as “organised crime” that was not risky for the syndicates, as they didn’t have to hijack the vehicle or be involved in any violence.

He said it was concerning how the syndicates managed to get hold of personal details of the vehicle owners.

Newham said the criminals either hacked into the dealership’s system and stole people’s information, or there were people working within the dealerships who leaked customers’ information.

“In that case, the syndicate will approach somebody working in the dealership and offer them money in exchange for customers’ details. With those details, they make it sound authentic and make you believe that they’re truly from the dealership, which can lead you to handing over your keys to them,” said Newham.

He said it was a sophisticated syndicate that had hacked the system.

“If people are involved in cybercrime, they can actually get to people’s databases and steal their money, even from your bank.”

Newham advised unsuspecting customers to verify information with the dealership when they received suspicious calls.

Last week, The Mercury spoke to a Ford Ranger owner who received a call from a person claiming to be from Ford, who told him that there was an emergency safety recall on all Rangers.

The person claimed that there was a steering box problem that locked the steering at speed. But the driver realised it was suspicious and called the dealership to confirm that there wasn’t a safety recall.

Ford South Africa also confirmed that they were aware of such a crime, warning customers to contact the dealership if they were suspicious.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa said it had come to their attention that there were unknown individuals posing as representatives of the company and targeting customers about so-called outstanding recalls and services for their vehicles.

“We wish to impress upon you that Mercedes-Benz SA and the agent network would never arrange for the collections of your vehicle to action outstanding safety recalls or ­service measures,” said Mercedes-Benz SA.

They also advised their customers that should they receive communication pertaining to such things, or had any suspicion of fraudulent activities regarding their vehicle, they should immediately contact the nearest dealership or their customer assistants.

Toyota posted on their Facebook page, warning their customers to be aware of the scam.

“Should there be a recall of Toyota vehicles or service campaigns of any kind, Toyota will not call you requesting the collection of your car. If you get a call from someone you believe is falsely claiming to be a Toyota employee, please contact the dealership directly to validate the information,” wrote Toyota.

The Mercury

114690350 - Car companies warn of theft syndicates trying to scam owners

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