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Car clockers

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Elham Rizi | 19:41 UK time, Thursday, 6 May 2010

Buying a used car can be daunting, and if a recent investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is anything to go by, you've a right to be wary. Last year, there were 72,000 official complaints to Consumer Direct about issues with second hand cars.

Bilal and Abbas Ahmed, who feature on Rogue Traders in the 6th May 2010 edition of Watchdog

One problem often complained about is clocked cars. A car is "clocked" if someone interferes with the odometer (the mileage reading). It's not illegal to do that, but if you sell the car, and don't tell the new owner that the mileage is inaccurate, it's a serious offence. Cars are often clocked to increase their value and the OFT estimates that car clocking costs consumers £580 million a year.

A clocked Ford Mondeo

Kevin Mellor bought a Ford Mondeo from a used car trader for £2995, after responding to an advert on the Auto Trader web site. Kevin met the trader in a residential street in Peterborough, and was led to believe this is where he trader lived. The car had 77,000 miles on the clock and a service history to match. Kevin bought the car, and only realised something was wrong when he drove home with his new purchase. The car broke down!

Kevin couldn't get any response from the trader. He became suspicious and began investigating the car's history using the VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) website. VOSA now makes an electronic record of every MOT test, and if you have certain documents, you're able to check a car's MOT history. You can try it yourself by going to and selecting MOT history check.

You'll need the vehicle registration mark along with an MOT test number from one of the following:

• VT20 test certificate
• VT30 refusal certificate or the document reference number from
• V5C registration certificate

When Kevin put in the details of the car he'd just purchased, he discovered that its mileage wasn't 72,000, as advertised, it was actually 191,508 miles. It turned out the service history he'd been given was fake too. Exasperated, Kevin said, "you've gone from a car that useful, to a car that's basically worth little more than scrap really."
It also turned out that the address the trader had used was fake. Kevin got in touch with Rogue Traders.

Rogue Traders Investigates
Rogue Traders developed an ambitious plan and decided to try and sell the trader a used car which had high mileage. If he then advertised it with lower mileage, we'd buy it back, and then we'd have our proof.

Kevin Mellor bought his car from a man calling himself 'Ashley Singh', so we phoned "Ashley" offering him a VW Passat which had done 128,000 miles. Ashley took the bait and arranged to view it.

Test Drive
'Ashley' came to meet us with his brother in the same street he'd used to sell Kevin Mellor his clocked Mondeo, and yet again he was making out he lived here. After taking the car for a test drive, 'Ashley' agreed to buy it for £2300 and drove it away the same day. Little did he know we were tracking the car's every move.

The car was fitted with a GPS tracker and a Rogue Traders surveillance team was in hot pursuit. It transpired that the pair lived in a completely different part of Peterborough, and the name 'Ashley' was as fake as his cars. The pair are actually brothers Bilal and Abbas Ahmed, and they were clearly selling a lot of cars. Outside their house were a collection of used motors that they'd been advertising on Auto Trader, and various checks revealed they were all clocked too.

Money Maker
Selling clocked cars can be lucrative. As an example, Bilal and Abbas were selling a Honda for nearly £6000. They claimed it had done 77,000 miles but it had actually done 192,000 miles. Because of this, it was only worth £4300. But for a car clocker, the risks are high. The crime is viewed so seriously, offenders are often sentenced to jail.

As for the Passat we'd sold them, Bilal and Abbas drove it around for a week, travelling all over the midlands, sometimes at speeds nearing 100 mph, but had they had it clocked? We decided to try and buy it back.

We called up as a new client and asked if they had a VW Passat for sale and before we knew it they were offering us our car. We were told that it had 47,000 miles and they wanted £6200, a £3900 mark up! A test drive of the car confirmed it was definitely our car, and it had been clocked. We confronted Abbas Ahmed. Despite a one mile chase on foot across a Peterborough housing estate, Abbas Ahmed had nothing to say, but sent us an email a week later saying he was actually working for someone else.

Abbas Ahmed Statement

"You said that I was selling clocked cars and gaining a profit on them. I have been selling these cars for someone else. All vehicles, including the VW Passat belonged to them.

"They offered me a job last year of selling cars for them and I would get £100 for each car I sold. I took their offer up as I didn't have much money and needed work.
I had no idea that the cars were clocked and that the service history was fake. I just sold them.

"The name 'Ashley Singh' was the name they told me to use, and I didn't use my home address because they told me not to sell from home."

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Statement

"Industry invests heavily in car security but there is always the risk that unlawful operations may tamper with vehicles for their own gain.

"To minimise the impact of clocking, vehicle manufacturers continuously enhance the levels of security protection on electronic systems and maintain a close relationship with government bodies to ensure that vehicle mileages are recorded on a central database as part of the annual MOT test.

"Motorist vigilance is essential in the fight against clocking. Consumers are advised to always purchase a second hand car from an authorised retailer and to:

• Ensure that a vehicle history check has been completed. Additionally, many vehicle manufacturers now digitally record the mileage of cars as part of the regular service and repair process - so enabling subsequent purchasers to check the vehicle's history.

• Examine the vehicle for signs of heavy wear and tear not commensurate with the stated mileage (e.g. wear to carpets and interior trim).

• Check the service history of the vehicle against stated mileage.

• Carry out an MOT history check:"

Auto Trader Statement

"Unfortunately there is a small group of people who use sites like ours for fraudulent purposes. To minimise their effect on the millions of legal visitors we have every month, we offer detailed advice to all visitors on how to conduct comprehensive security and vehicle checks, to help safeguard them from this kind of experience. We regret that Mr Mellor has had a bad experience and strongly advise other customers to make sure that they are conducting all of the recommended checks to protect themselves from this kind of fraudulent advertiser."

Please note: The VW Passat that we featured in this report has been returned to its correct mileage.

Download Watchdog's Buying Used Cars factsheet.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    is this so wrong ?

  • Comment number 3.


    I actually can't believe what I saw on BBC1 today.

    Clocking cars is as old as the history of cars is!

    I'm Polish, have been living in UK for couple of years now, and EVERY SINGLE car and motorbike I bought had been checked against clocking. These things are not expensive, and can save you thousands, depending on how much the vehicle is.

    Was this report for [edited] people, who are buying car/motorbike for the first time?

    That's what you do when you buy a second-hand vehicle and it's OBVIOUS: you CHECK it BEFORE you even leave any deposit, DO NOT trust your seller!!!

    Buying a second-hand vehicle without checking its mileage before leaving deposit is simply throwing your money away.



  • Comment number 4.

    your program mentioned mot website, i tried this website does not work
    [Note from Watchdog: Here is a link to the DirectGov website where you can carry out MOT status and history checks. Best wishes, Watchdog]

  • Comment number 5.

    All that the OFT, Car Industry etc need to do is make HPI checks free. Problem solved.

  • Comment number 6.

    Amazing show Watchdog in catching these to scammers. funny how silly they look when they get caught. I would like to know if they will have to find new places to love with lots of angry customers on the look out for them after being ripped off.

  • Comment number 7.

    If you need your hand held when buying a vehicle, which includes reference to visiting the VOSA web site, (with a link), how to check the tax, the importance of the Document Reference Number from the registration document and why to leave a deposit, see: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]. The information has been collated and presented by the people who assisted with the BBC’s Cars, Cops & Criminals current and past series

  • Comment number 8.

    I have worked in the mot business for 13 years, I watched your programme tonight and there were several items that jumped out at me...
    1. who in there right frame of mind allows anyone to take their car out on a test drive without the owner driving the car,, insurane issues are my first fore thought...
    2. you ask the seller for the opportunity to check the vehicle out which can be done oiver the phone when you are in front of the vehicle.
    3. if u email the person prior to viewing the vehicle the seller will not object.... the way I am female......

  • Comment number 9.

    can you check the link:

    "Download Watchdog's Buying Used Cars factsheet." My system is returning the message 'cannot be found'


    [Note from Watchdog: We're sorry to hear you were experiencing difficulties downloading our factsheet on buying used cars. If your system is still returning an error message please let us know and we would be happy email you a copy. Best wishes, Watchdog web team]

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi I want to report a fraud I saw on Auto trader. I sold my car Honda HRV Registration number [removed] for £1250 few days ago on gum tree and noticed it is on Auto trader with much low milage now and the person claims to have all MOTS which really surprised me because when I sold him the car it was already about a hundred and thirty thousand milage and now in the advertisement it says seventy or eighty thousand.

  • Comment number 11.

    I would like to know if these people have been reported to the police?

    As was mentioned in the report 'clocking' is a criminal offence, I assume that the BBC has passed this information onto the police, so that they can be brought to justice.

    If not, why not?

  • Comment number 12.

    Whilst you raise an important issue with the clocking and forged histories, why did you sell the [car removed] so cheaply?

    An asking price of £2500 is ridiculous, and accepting £2300 for the vehicle is ludicrous. A 2005-55 [car removed] S 1.9 TDI 105 5-speed Manual in Reflex Silver with 128k as featured in your program would have a trade value for £4000 in excellent condition (as your car was), and in poor condition would be worth just over £3000 at the very least. These are auction/ trade values (i.e. what dealers pay) and come straight from the [edited]guide, I'm sure you would get similar figures from [edited]. The retail value would be even more. If that car was advertised privately for £2500 it would sell in no time, people wouldn't be "Put off by the mileage" as your report said.

    I also have concerns about the amount of [edited] product placement. In the previous episode you used a [car make edited] in the McDonalds parking film, and a [edited] in the mobile phone report. In this episode, a [edited] featured in the report on new houses, and the piece on car clocking featured heavy use of [edited] products in the form of the Silver [edited].

    All of the above leads me to question the authenticity of your program.

  • Comment number 13.

    I bought a BMW from the one of these brothers. It passed an HPI check but only found out it was clocked when I had the V5 form - you need it to check the MOT. He had of course vanished. I have been advised that there is nothing I can do, but I am hoping the police are doing something about them.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    What makes me mad, is that what sould be a free service.

    Checking milage, VIN details and write off information etc.

    Has been advertised as a Pay Service.


  • Comment number 16.

    Thank-you Watchdog for this article, as soon as the show finished I checked my Cars MOT history only to discover that it has been clocked by 100,000 miles!

    I will be reporting this, thanks again for bringing this to light

  • Comment number 17.

    This is in response to item 3. I am the purchaser featured. You have to remember that my story was edited as I expected. What wasn't covered was that I did pay for a vehicle check (you are not insured for mileage discrepancies by these companies, as I've found out by the way) before the purchase, which showed the car to be clean.

    I subsequently discovered the VOSA MOT Check, I, my peers or Watchdog were not aware free check, which is the issue I personally wanted to get featured on the program. This is obviously only available for cars more than 3 years old. Had I'd have known about this "tool" there would have been no story. My friends have since used it to good effect.

    So forgive me for wanting to get this message out to the general public.

    When you see a clean car that has been checked out, the service history stacks up, the vehicle number is OK, the MOT checks out this would rumble most potential purchasers.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    i also bought a ford mondeo from these brothers in coventry. a 2003 model with 101000 miles £1500. MOT had 69000 last september, which didn't sound too bad. On way home engine cut out on motorway. later checks on vosa website revealed previous mot had 227000 miles. Why can't we access this information before we buy, instead of after when its too late. as we need mot no. or v5 logbook to gain info.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    So how could you detect clocking of a vehicle less than 3 yrs old? (i.e. before it's first MOT)

  • Comment number 22.

    Hello Jeff/all,

    You say at the end that the Passat has now been returned to the correct mileage. Is this a service the Main VW dealer can do?


  • Comment number 23.

    I went to buy a second hand car driving 80 miles away from where i live. It was [edited], i checked all the details before i went to buy the car. Everything seemed OK. But when i went there i was inspecting the car and doing general checks on it, within 15 mins the trader got annoyed as i was doing checks and told he doesn't want to sell the car any more as i am checking it too much.

    As i buyer am i not allowed to check the car properly before i buy it??? It just looked weired that trader wasn't happy with me inspecting the car. SO does it mean that trader was doggy????

    So how do we find out each and every details of the car??? Or weather the car is involved in accidents or not??? As the paint on the car look funny and car did smell of paint too.. If any one knows how to find out that please let me no.

  • Comment number 24.

    It's true that there's a lot of rogue traders out there, in fact one of my friends was caught out a few years ago - thankfully they got the authorities involved and managed to get most of their money back. I think the best bit of advice to offer someone who is wanting to buy a second hand car is to go to a trusted website such as [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]. This way, you know that the website has run a history check on the car to verify that all the details are correct. It stops people posting false details and tricking customers, so it's the only approach I'd consider when looking for a second hand car.


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