The expression comes from the second hand motor trade, as the name suggests, but this plague exists in every type of business in every corner of every economy. We've all had experience of it, and I have no doubt that a few readers may be practitioners of this nefarious dark art.
The problem with encountering these sorts when selling a business, and an accountancy practice in particular, is that the prospective buyer is getting more than a look under the bonnet, he or she actually gets to see the inner working of your firm, perhaps even get to check through client files and most likely will be seeing your bank statement or VAT returns.
Some people will counter that if you want to make an omelette you have to break eggs. This is true but what more can be done to prevent the omelette running all over the kitchen counter?
When I deal with a buyer the first thing I insist upon is that they complete a comprehensive list of questions about their own practice and finances prior to letting them anywhere near a seller's details. I have yet to come across a more effective and efficient way of dealing with timewasters.
But the bottom lien is that nothing can guarantee that you won't get the run around or have the rug pulled from under your feet at the last minute. If it's any comfort it usually means the buyer has cold feet and in all likelihood would have made your life a nightmare post-sale. But at least it means all the spadework has been done ready for actual buyer !