Wisdom > Spoiler

This could happen to you and your newly bought car

Bottom line: You can’t be too careful these days

This new Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class was stolen after just a couple of months of ownership. PHOTO FROM ERIC TAN

Probably the worst thing that could happen to any car owner is to lose one’s brand-new vehicle right under his nose. Precisely what happened to the 80-year-old father of businessman Eric Tan. The family bought a new Mercedes-Benz GLC from CATS Motors in Bonifacio Global City earlier this year for Eric’s dad to use for his regular visits to St. Luke’s Medical Center, also in BGC.

Now, the elder Tan needed a personal driver to accompany him on his trips, particularly for when he’d go to the hospital for his dialysis. So the family hired one, who started work on June 1. In hindsight, Eric regrets not being able to personally screen this chauffeur as he had usually done in the past. Said driver was hired upon the recommendation of one of the hospital’s security guards.

Some two weeks after the driver had begun transporting Eric’s father using the new GLC, they went to St. Luke’s for another dialysis session. They arrived at the hospital at around 12:30pm. After the procedure, at around 4:30pm, the dad contacted the driver to inform him it was time to go. No reply. The driver—and, more importantly, the luxury SUV—had gone missing.

A subsequent check with the hospital’s security camera system revealed that the vehicle had left the premises at 1:30pm, just an hour after the driver had dropped off Eric’s father. This erased any doubts that the driver had made off with the two-month-old Merc.

A few days after the incident, with no meaningful leads available to his family, Eric decided to share everything on social media, including the car’s conduction sticker number. Within a matter of hours, Eric received images that a seller had posted online (these are the photos you see here).

The photos you see here were posted by an online seller. PHOTO FROM ERIC TAN

After digging into the matter, Eric found out that the car had been sold to a casino financier for P1,500,000 (the car sells for about P5,800,000 brand-new). It is not clear whether it was their driver himself who personally passed on the vehicle to the financier, or some middleman facilitated the transaction. Amusingly, Eric discovered that the parking facility in the photos matches the physical features of the one of St. Luke’s BGC, indicating that the culprit (or culprits) had already been shopping the car around even before its disappearance. Eric now suspects there might be a “small-time” group operating in the area.

The sad part is this: Eric presently can’t make further progress in his investigation as “the friend of the friend of the friend” who had alerted him to the advertised photos would no longer cooperate, citing fears for her personal safety. Eric was not provided the exact details (name, address) of the casino financier, only some general info like the latter’s day job.

These criminals are able to continue their unlawful acts because we do nothing. This has to stop. Victims should speak out

The seller—who we assume is also the casino financier—apparently even insists that the car doesn’t really belong to Eric’s father. “It’s really simple,” Eric told VISOR. “If he really believes the car doesn’t belong to us, just bring it to CATS Motors and let the dealership ascertain its ownership. Also, the vehicle has GPS equipment. We can always check the past routes that the car had taken. And finally, the spare key is with us. Why would he buy a car with just one key? You always ask for the spare key to see if it’s legit.”

To be clear, Eric is no longer interested in the vehicle per se. “It’s insured,” he said. “We’re covered. I’m just doing this to try to stop this culture of indifference. These criminals are able to continue their unlawful acts because we do nothing. Ang nangyayari, kung sino ’yung ninakawan, sila pa ang takot. This has to stop. Victims should speak out.”

There are a couple of lessons we can learn here:

1. Be very, very cautious when hiring a personal driver. You’re basically entrusting not just your car but more so your life (or family) to a stranger.

2. Don’t buy a motor vehicle from just about anyone. An unusually low price tag isn’t a blessing—it’s a red flag. The huge savings you think you are making cannot ever compensate for the headaches that are sure to follow if the unit turns out to be a stolen one.

Be careful out there. You never know who might be watching you and your brand-new car.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.