Guide To Spotting Fake Service Books For Used Cars

Blank service history book 7 photos
Photo: eBay seller
Blank and generic service record for vehiclesBlank service record for Ford modelsFeel free to use Google to find out more about a car, it's freeAn old-fashioned phone call can go a long wayCheck receipts and documents kept by the seller. Do not damage themTake notes, compare to online ad, and to the documents. Anything fishy?
Situation: You are considering the purchase of a second-hand vehicle, and the seller claims to have a full-service record.
Since you are a smart person and value information, you decide to be a little bit paranoid in your purchase process, to avoid falling victim to a scam. As most of you know, the used cars market is full of scammers of all sorts.

From the “Nigerian scheme,” where a fictitious seller has a perfect vehicle at a low price, but lives far away from civilization and asks for money over Western Union or other similar services, to mileage clocking, scams are all over the place.

It this guide, we are addressing the thorny issue of fake service books for used vehicles. These documents are like poison to your bank account. They look close enough to the real deal, and you might not even make out the difference, and they amplify your trust into a seller that wants to “flip” a car that has been clocked.

In most cases, fake service books often hide a severe case of mileage manipulation, as well as other hidden faults. After all, if the seller wanted to make more money from the flip of the vehicle, why just stop at doctoring the service book and not sell a vehicle that has been repaired in haste to conceal a severe fault.

Fake service books work because people tend to trust others, and most humans are not paranoid enough to double-check things like these. From there, all the seller has to do is provide a good story (like they are leaving the country or something) and then praise the vehicle for its level of quality.

Find Out How An Original Looks Like, And Discover How Blanks Look

Blank service record for Ford models
Photo: eBay seller
First of all, you must know how an original service book for a particular brand and car model should look. You will not be able to spot a fake easily or recognize an original if you do not know it.

Now, do not get your hopes up on this one, but if you cannot find any proper pictures online, there are still solutions. At this point of the purchase process, you already know which vehicle you are interested in, so you have the option of visiting a dealer from the same carmaker and kindly request to see a service book.

The paper used should have a particular kind of grain and print quality. Look for the logo of the brand and how its details are finished. Once you know how an original feels like, you will have an extra shot when a fake one gets in your hands. Search the web for "service book" to see how the $10 replicas look.

Google Is Your Friend

Feel free to use Google to find out more about a car, it's free
The seller has kindly provided a VIN for the vehicle you want to buy, and everything else on the car checked out. However, why not get a free and supplementary test? It is easy. Google the VIN, the seller’s name, and their phone number. Do not search for all of these together, but separately.

If you do not find anything except for the ad, feel free to be suspicious. If the vendor has numerous cars on sale in Google results, check the dates when they were posted, and try to stay away from the car flipper, except if he is an authorized dealer.

Ideally, a regular person who is not famous in any field will still have a few results on Google, unless they have changed their phone number. If their name is common in your area, just stick to the VIN and the phone number.

In an incredibly lucky scenario, you might find them or their car on a forum. They might ask for recommendations, brag about their new car, or just find the same ad for the car. If they do have a user on the forum, check for their topics and posts, maybe you will find some complaints regarding the vehicle they want to sell. Happy people are not as talkative on forums as those who are dissatisfied with something, so it is worth checking this out.

Call The Dealer

An old\-fashioned phone call can go a long way
Okay, so the vehicle you have found has a full-service record, and it lists the name of a company. Preferably, it is a specialized dealer for that brand, but an independent service or a company specialized in a particular kind of car will do. Do not just settle for reading the stamps and looking at the dates of maintenance intervals.

Google the dealer’s name and try to find out if it is still in business, and if there are any complaints about them. Call them, be nice, and ask if the vehicle you want to buy was serviced by them. Check to see if the dates on the book match those in their records. If a long time has passed since the last recorded service, the mileage shown might be inaccurate.

Some dealers might not disclose this kind of information over the phone so that a visit might be necessary. It will cost you some money, but it is still better than getting scammed with a car that has had its mileage manipulated. You were going to check it at a service unit anyway, right?

Ask For Receipts

Check receipts and documents kept by the seller\. Do not damage them
If the owner of a car was careful enough to keep its maintenance records, it is probable he also has some receipts or bills to go with them. While the service book might be faked, nobody takes the time to print fake receipts or invoices.

Plus, if the owner has a controversial service book and no receipts, it might have been “doctored.” After all, when things are fishy in the documentation, something might be wrong. We must note that honest car owners sometimes happen to misplace receipts, invoices, or even service books altogether, but they must still have some form of a bill from their period of ownership.

Some countries, like the USA, have services like “CarFax,” where you can get service records for a vehicle using the VIN. These services are usually not free, but they are worth the money if you compare the expense with potential repairs that might be required by the used vehicle that you want to purchase.

Double Check Everything, Trust Your Gut

Take notes, compare to online ad, and to the documents\. Anything fishy\?
Once you have convinced yourself that the service book is legitimate, take a look at the dates posted on it. Do you see a pattern? Do the letters or signatures have the same style of handwriting? Has the ink faded in the same way on all of the entries, or are the older ones more faded than the latest?

Most mileage scammers prefer to have a maximum of three to four service entries. Depending on the service interval of the vehicle and its advertised mileage, the book you are holding should have more or fewer entries.

Calculate the differences in distance from one service entry to the next and check the dates. Can you find an accurate annual mileage for the vehicle? Does it match its age? How many miles has the car been driven since its last repair?

Last, but not least, trust your gut. Be skeptical, but polite, and talk to the seller. Ask if they recall any issues between the service intervals and any problems with the vehicle over time. Were there any difficulties with the dealer, have they been overpriced on an item or work? Ask if the vehicle has any particular “quirks,” and inquire about their experience with the car.

If the seller does not seem to know much about the car they have owned for several years, or is hesitant, consider walking away. However, if you feel that the person cannot be trusted, either because of the way the speak, answer, or behave, do not do business with them. It is best to be safe than sorry. Beware of overly attentive sellers, as they might have something to hide as well.
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About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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