Irish officials have arrested four known gang members in a classic car scam that primarily targeted elderly collectors, the country’s national police force said in a news release.
The An Garda Síochána said the scammers were arrested following an operation in Rathkeale, County Limerick. The Irish Times reported all four were linked to Irish gangs and had previously been involved in numerous crimes, primarily theft cases.
The scam worked two ways: The scammers allegedly would agree to purchase a classic car, but would only pay a fraction of the agreed price before taking possession. The Irish Sun reported the scammers would call people who lived on rural properties where a classic car was stored and ask if the vehicle was for sale.
An anonymous source told the Sun that the scammers would then pressure the victim into selling.
“Two or three of them will show up and offer large sums of money to these people and they can be quite aggressive about it,” the source said. “If the mark gives in, they’ll either disappear without paying or use distraction to pay just a small part of what is owed.
“They are counting on the fact that those they are targeting are often elderly and live alone.”
In other cases, they would agree to sell a certain classic car to a buyer for a price, but deliver a far inferior vehicle from the one pictured online. The Garda did not say how much money buyers lost.
The scam primarily targeted people in Ireland, but there may be victims in other countries.
Garda officials said the scammers obtained about 20 cars worth a total of €360,000 ($406,000) by pressuring sellers, including top British marques such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce dating back to the 1930s.
And that’s likely not the final number. Officials believe more people were victimized and encouraged them to come forward.
“From enquiries to date, I believe there may be more victims across the country who have been deceived during a transaction involving a vintage or classic car,” Detective Superintendent Michael Mullen of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation said in the release.
“I would like to appeal today, particularly to the elderly community to contact your local Garda Station if you believe that you have been deceived in the purchase/sale of a vintage or classic car in circumstances where either money has not been received or money received far less than that of the value of the car.”