Warning on rising motor vehicle fraud in Japan

By Embassy of the Republic of Kenya in Tokyo-Japan
This Embassy has recently been inundated by requests from many Kenyans seeking assistance to recover monies allegedly paid to unscrupulous Japanese Companies for the purchase of second hand Motor vehicles. In trying to assist the unfortunate victims, the Mission has uncovered the following:
•While Japanese car dealers generally used to be known as trust worthy and reliable this may no longer be true. Unfortunately, the used car export business in Japan has been invaded by some criminals.
•The global economic difficulties and cut- throat competition in the industry have translated into low profitability and an increase in illegal exports. These include the sale of stolen vehicles, illegally rebuilt units or even re-modeled vehicles. The tendency thrives on the known reputation for excellent quality and reasonable prices associated with Japanese used motor vehicles.
•Kenya is clearly amongst the targeted and lucrative markets for unscrupulous internet- based motor vehicle fraudsters. This may be informed by the size of the Market, the 8-year Rule, and the demand by citizens for cheaper cars. Dishonest individuals have exploited the internet marketing & advertising model to lure un-suspecting customers from Kenya including senior government officials.
•Unfortunately, most victims have in the past suffered silently and this lack of publicity has served the fraudsters very well. They are assured of another opportunity to defraud one victim after another without the fear of detection.
•In trying to track down the bogus used cars exporters, the Mission has found some interesting trends. Firstly, these heartless vendors are hard to trace as they change their telephone numbers immediately they sense danger and will not respond to email enquiries.
•Since the transactions are mostly transacted via on-line via internet; the fraudsters need no office or even a sale yard. The vehicles displayed on their websites are merely Motor vehicle pictures taken from some legitimate yards or the many vehicle auctions. They then use computer graphics to display their banners over the Fake yards or the cars themselves.
•Wirth regard to their Bank accounts to which Kenyan victims have wired their monies, the Mission has found that such accounts are phantom accounts opened solely for purposes of fraud for a particular period of time. You cannot easily track down these master criminals because Japanese Banks can accommodate ATM withdrawals of up to 1,000,000 Yen or more than Kshs. 1,000,000). Since they use fake names and identities to open the accounts it’s hardly possible for one to trace them.
•According to available records, hundreds of Kenyan might have fallen into this trap annually and something must be done urgently to stop the trend.
•Our engagements with the local police, government departments have proved that once paid to the criminals, it is almost impossible to trace the perpetrators due to the legal technicalities here.
•The Police and related agencies have been categorical that the Japanese law classifies the offence of defrauding a client in a business deal as a civil offence. This means that the Metropolitan Police has no powers of arrest or prosecution for such offences. Such litigation is left to hired professional lawyers.
•In view of the above, it’s anybody’s guess how many Kenyans can afford to travel to Japan and to hire a lawyer to pursue USD 10,000. Even if the lawyer is hired, what are the chances that the criminal can be found when the only address available on the websites ends up being a public car park, a garden or an empty space?
Way Forward
In view of the above this mission recommends the following:
I.Potential vehicle importers should be extremely cautious before ordering a Motor vehicle from Japan via internet.
II.All importers should be weary of super bargains or unusually cheap vehicles- for the sweeter the deal the stronger the pain.
IV.In case of any further advice or enquiries, kindly feel free to contact us at the Kenya Embassy- Tokyo using our email address: kenrep@kenyarep-jp.com or trade@kenyarep-jp.com
Many Kenyans may recently have been shocked by media reports alleging increasing cases of importers who are falling victim to online fraudulent transactions involving used motor vehicle imports from Japan. However, a careful look at online motor vehicle trade shows that with the advent of the internet it was only a matter of time before the worldwide web became a booming marketplace for all manner of commodities including cars. The online car market actually involves millions of car deals every year and is a good avenue for buyers and sellers alike. This is because of the systems efficiency and speed and as a matter of fact, the vast majority of online car deals through auction sites are positive transactions.
On the darker side, however the growing online Motor vehicle trade has attracted a rapidly growing number of fraudsters. All manner of Con artists and Scam artists are lining up to take advantage of unsuspecting car buyers particularly from Africa.
Consequently every potential car buyer and seller ought to exercise due caution while taking necessary steps to protect themselves from online criminals. The following tips are particularly useful:
I. BE ALERT!- Firstly, the buyer needs to ask himself if the selected company has a genuine address! One must avoid dealing with car exporters who only provide cell phone numbers i.e. those starting with either +81-80… and +81-90… Kindly note that these are cell phone numbers meaning that the owners may probably not have a permanent address and hence a land line which is quite easy and affordable in Japan. Do not deal with a company that communicates by only email or cell phone. Once they disappear with your cash, you may never track down such phantom dealers.
Photo-consistency- Photos from a genuine company will be consistent. Before you even begin an email discussion with an alleged exporter, start by carefully examining the back ground for all cars. Genuine car dealers are likely to show the same general background meaning that all the shots were taken on the same piece of land and address. This company probably OWNS the vehicles in their yard!!
Most phony websites claim an incredible amount of amazing stock but have simply taken photos off other websites. Generally such companies own nothing even though they might claim to own 500 cars.
II. TAKE CAUTION!- Odometer fraud is a growing concern in internet motor vehicle business. Odometers have been altered and even digital odometers can be tampered with. The discerning used vehicle buyer may wish to demand for a competent odometer inspection certificate before confirming the order or remitting the money.
III. BE THOROUGH! Potential buyers are advised to always demand multiple photos of the selected car. For instance ask the dealer to show you all photos. If still unsure, ask for more specific photos even from a specific angle. For example, zoom in on the Stereo or the CD changer. Zoom in on the Chassis Number; show a picture of the exact mileage on the odometer etc. You can even ask to see something that is not important like the photos of the door handles.
The catch here is that if the company does not get back to you within a reasonable time, it’s likely they simply do not own that vehicle.
In addition, always read all the communications carefully. If web messages are full of grammatical and spellings errors, this could be a high indicator of a fraudulent website. Though some scammers are very careful, most overseas frauds contain vast grammatical errors and misspellings. If it does not look right… then there is probably something wrong.
Get it in writing. Some fraudsters in Japan will send you a quotation on an email that does not carry anybody’s name! If the client encounters difficulties with the transaction, they cannot say who sold them the car and no one can take responsibility!!!
Potential Kenyan importers of used cars may verify information on online exporters with the Nairobi office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) because JETRO has access to a database called Teikoku Databank which contains key data on Japanese businesses.
Moreover, the Embassy of the Republic of Kenya in Tokyo has some good local knowledge of the country and is always available to advise Kenyans if the company they are dealing with has a history of reported fraud. The Embassy can always be reached via Email: kenrep@kenyarep-jp.com and trade@kenyarep-jp.com.
Registration- The minimum requirement to conduct business legally in Japan is to be registered with the local authorities. Always request the company to give you copies of registration documents and their official translation. Translations of the registration documents should have been done by a third party translation firm.
Unfortunately, there are some sites that have reported to export cars with undisclosed damage to get quick profits. All motor vehicle importers must therefore be on the lookout for amazingly cheap vehicles as they end up baring the pain of expensive repairs after a short while. According to credible reports, a number of importers from East Africa have reportedly lost millions of shillings due to scams by bogus online dealers/used car exporters. None was aware that they are dealing with phantom companies who will just take their money and disappear without trace.
How do bogus Japanese car exporters scam people?
1)Most advertise very beautiful cars at amazingly low prices.
2)It is not possible to contact the dealer once you send money to them.
3)Alternatively, weeks, even months go by without ever receiving the vehicle from them. Instead they keep giving you excuse after excuse for failure to deliver.
4)If the customer ever gets a vehicle, it is always much lower in value from what they paid for.