The public is being urged to be cautious when buying or selling cars privately as fake bank drafts are being used in some transactions.

So far this year 24 cars have been recovered by gardaí after they had been bought with fake bank drafts.

Gardaí have said that criminals target members of the public who advertise their vehicles for sale on Irish classified websites.

Contact is made expressing an interest in viewing and then purchasing the vehicle.  The criminals also place "drivers wanted" ads on websites.

The applicants are then asked to meet for an interview in pubs, hotel receptions or car parks. These drivers are instructed by phone to meet prospective sellers to view the vehicles.

The criminals make arrangements over the phone without personally viewing the vehicle to purchase it using a bank draft. 

This transaction normally takes place in the evening, usually a Friday evening.

The draft is handed over and the driver receives the vehicle and vehicle registration certificate.

The seller is told the buyer is in the motor trade and given an RF105 (Change of Ownership to Motor dealer) form with details of a fictitious garage.

The vehicle is already re-advertised on the internet below the market value to attract attention. It is then immediately resold, sometimes within hours, to an innocent purchaser.

When the false draft is discovered the vehicle is reported as stolen.

Gardaí are urging members of the public to take necessary precautions before finalising the sale.

They say that if a seller is offered a bank draft, they should get details of that draft in advance and check it is legitimate with the bank or branch it is purported to be from; avoid buying a car in a car park; and if the person is unwilling to provide details for verification, walk away.

All the cars that were recovered were returned to their owners, leaving the unsuspecting buyers out of pocket - one such person was down €40,000.

Gardaí say they have been working closely with a number of Irish classified websites and the auto trader to trace the suspects, warn their customers and remove ads that have been placed.

Investigators are also liaising closely with financial institutions and jobs websites advertising for drivers.

A number of arrests have been made and searches have been carried out.