Saint Lucia police have warned citizens to beware of internet car sales scams in which criminals target unwary individuals.
The criminals offer vehicles for sale, invite buyers to a rendezvous to obtain the item, and have held up and robbed the unfortunate victims in several instances.
In one of the latest examples, armed bandits attacked a motorist this week when the man went to meet them at Morne Fortune to complete a vehicle sale in response to their invitation.
The man, who sustained minor injuries, managed to drive off in his black Subaru but collided with another vehicle in his haste to get away while the bandits escaped into nearby bushes.
A passing police patrol later went in pursuit of the trio.
Appearing on the DBS Television programme Newsmaker Live on Wednesday, Sergeant Shervon Matthieu observed many ‘red flags’ associated with the social media vehicle scams.
By way of example, he observed that the scammers use aliases.
“Why don’t you have a legitimate name? You go onto the page – no photos, only four photos of a motor vehicle. You start talking to the person, the first thing is : ‘Hey, can you send me the documents for the vehicle?’. Do your due diligence first,” Matthieu advised.
“What is your name? Where are you from? What is your contact number? Can I get a copy of the insurance documents for that vehicle? You take it and you contact the financial institutions : ‘Good day Bank of Saint Lucia. Does John Brown have a loan for a 2015 Mercedes Benz or whatever?”
He also spoke of the need to inform the potential seller of the need for a mechanic to examine the vehicle for sale before applying for a bank loan to buy it.
“Sometimes when I speak about some of these issues I get upset because grown men are doing these things,” Matthieu declared regarding people who allow the criminals to prey on them.
“You leave the South of the Island. You see a vehicle for sale for $13,000. You come up to the North of the Island. You have not seen the vehicle, you have not driven it. The person you are buying the vehicle from is there waiting. Where is the vehicle? You give the person your $13,000 and then you want to run to the police? You have not seen the vehicle!” He observed.
According to Matthieu, investigating reports relating to internet scams puts additional pressure on the police.
“We have to work wonders for you to get your $13,000. But it was your fault,” Matthieu stated, adding that people need to be more responsible.
Matthieu disclosed that the criminals are becoming more brazen and using firearms because they know their victims are coming with money to buy the vehicles offered for sale.
“A transmission is about $3,000, $4000. You will see a transmission for $1,000. You need the transmission, so you will come with $1,000. ‘Meet me near the Daren Sammy Cricket stadium.’ Really? Why not at a garage, why not….. at the police station?” He asked.
Headline photo: Sergeant Shervon Matthieu