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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 11:42 GMT
Phones to combat Del Boy dealers
Del Boy
Del Boy and his own dodgy motor
Second-hand car buyers are being urged to use mobile phones to help combat dodgy Del Boy-style dealers.

Prospective buyers are being advised to take a picture of the seller before they part with their cash.

West Midlands Police say the abundance of camera phones and digital cameras makes their advice easy to follow.

The Home Office has expressed interest in the scheme, which was inspired by a woman who photographed the dealer who sold her a 7,000 stolen car.

She had seen an advert for a Volkswagen Sharan, but did not know it had been taken during a burglary.

However, police hope to secure a conviction as the woman visited the seller's house to buy the vehicle and also took his picture.

'Genuine sellers'

West Midlands assistant chief constable Stuart Hyde said: "If people are genuine sellers they should have no reason not to want to have their photograph taken.

"In these days of camera phones and digital cameras, it only takes a few seconds to capture an image - which could help us capture the thieves in the long run."

Mr Hyde said photographs will help stop stolen cars being sold through small ads.

Taking photos of dealers is one piece of advice being offered in West Midlands Police's Safer Motors initiative, which has attracted the attention of the Home Office.

Other tips include paying by banker's draft rather than cash and visiting the seller's home instead of doing a deal in a car park.

Gangs targeted

The initiative aims to cut the number of so-called cloned cars on Britain's roads and smash gangs operating sophisticated scams to con people out of cash.

Mr Hyde said: "Usually the car is advertised in the classified ads section of car magazines or newspapers.

"They give a mobile contact which is usually an untraceable pay-as-you go number.

"The 'owner' agrees to meet up at an agreed location and hands over vehicle documents which appear genuine.

"A few weeks after being registered by the new owner, police officers turn up at their door and take the vehicle away because it has been stolen.

"The new owner is left with no car, is thousands of pounds out of pocket and cannot claim on their insurance."

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