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I'm thinking to buy a second-hand car. Everything seems to be in order except one thing: the actual owner (X) is out of the country, and the car is being sold by his relative (Y). I will be paying by a bank cheque in the name of the owner (X), of whom I know the name, the address and the IBAN. The proxy (Y) will have an authorization from (X) to sell his car. I also have a copy of the car papers, with the name and address of (X) matching his bank account details.

What sort of checks I could do to stay as safe as possible in this deal? I'm thinking about calling the dealership where the car was bought and ask if the car with a given VIN was sold by them to X, and is it still under warranty (I expect them to cooperate since I'll likely be their client for revisions and repairs). I'm also planning to call the bank and ask them to confirm that the IBAN I have corresponds to the client X of theirs whose name and address I have.

Am I missing something obvious which puts me at risk because of the proxy (i.e. not because the car could have an accident, be under a lien, stolen, etc., I know how to check for these)? In my mind, as long as I'm sure I'm paying the owner of the car, he cannot both disappear with my money and ask me to give his car back at the same time. Are there any additional steps I could take to protect myself?

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    What is the authorization form from X? What country? – mhoran_psprep Aug 9 '17 at 15:46
  • @mhoran_psprep I haven't seen the authorization yet, but I presume it's something like "I, undersigned X, residing at address 1, authorize Y, residing at address 2, to sell my car of model Z, registration number 3". Most probably with authentication of signature. This happens in France. – Dmitry Grigoryev Aug 9 '17 at 16:05
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    What if the proxy doesn't actually have the owner's consent, and intends to alter the check and cash it himself? Then the car is stolen property and could be seized from you. You'd be entitled to a refund from the proxy, but only if he can be caught and still has money. – Nate Eldredge Aug 9 '17 at 17:50
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    This might be worth checking with the appropriate agency in France. If this were USA, I'd be wary -- the person whose name is on the car title must be the one to sign it over to the new buyer. – Rocky Aug 9 '17 at 20:11
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    @Rocky I will, but I'd be surprised if that was the case. If I remember correctly, I even had to sign papers instead of my wife when we were buying our house, because she couldn't be there that day. – Dmitry Grigoryev Aug 9 '17 at 20:36
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Is there a risk buying a used car via a proxy if I pay the actual owner? Everything seems to be in order except one thing: the actual owner (X) is out of the country, and the car is being sold by his relative (Y).

Yes there is risk. The risk is that the money never makes it to the actual owner. You have a piece of paper that claims to give permission to sell the car and the contact info for the real owner. The risk is that it was forged. Or that some other part of the chain of trust is forged.

Maybe the car is stolen. Maybe this is part of a more complex scam and you are only a small part of it. The risk is that you end up having to file a police report after the real owner reports it stolen and the car is taken from you; or even worse you end up under arrest because they think you are the thief.

With tons of cars for sale why risk it? Of course if the deal is a bargain, that may be designed to make you ignore the flashing warning light.

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