I have not really talked about this, but it’s something I feel is very important. People need to be aware of online car buying scams because they are really starting to become more common. I’m looking for another car myself and I do see a lot of ads online of different vehicles with really good prices, some in fact that seem too good to be true.
I recently came across an article on one of my local news station’s website that had an article about how the Better Business Bureau is warning people about purchasing cars online and how a lot of scammers from overseas are producing a lot of these particular scams.
Today, I’m going to be focusing on car buying scams online and red flags to look out for. There are definitely red flags for an ad being a potential scam just like I talk about red flags for a lot of phishing scams that people receive in their email inbox.
Where Car Scams Can Be Found Online
One of the most common places to look online for cars being sold are ad sites and a very popular one is called Craigslist. There are ads for all kinds of things on there and you usually can find something in your area, but this is where you also have to be very careful.
While Cragislist can be a great place to buy and sell things, scammers and thieves can use it to try to target people as well. You might find something that seems to be a great deal and that you don’t want to pass up so you try to take advantage of it by contacting the seller.
Sometimes things can get a little tricky once the seller has been contacted. Usually you’ll come up with arrangements to meet and pay for the item you want, but I would make absolutely sure the seller is not making demands or asking that payment be done a certain way or meet somewhere you’re not sure of or is not in a public place.
There are lots of stories of buyers meeting up with a seller from Craigslist only to end up being robbed or seriously injured because the person really had mal intent and really had no plans to sell anything to you. This is why it’s extremely important to bring someone with you and meet in a very public place with lots of people or even at a police station. A lot of police stations do have areas where you can meet if a buyer and seller agreed to meet online. You also need to be careful of how someone is asking to be paid and I’ll talk more about that next.
Payment methods can be a very big red flag when it comes to car buying scams or other scams online. Scammers a lot of times will make strange payment requests that may not always make sense.
Sometimes they’ll ask you to wire money to them and so they might ask you to go to your bank and wire them the money to another financial institution or some place that claims to be a bank. Don’t ever do this especially if you don’t get to look at the car and meet them beforehand. I work at a bank myself and sometimes we do question a customer to make sure they aren’t being taken advantage of because we don’t want them to lose their money, because once it’s wired, you pretty much can’t get any of it back.
Western Union is a place that scammers will also try to get you to send money to especially since a majority of scammers will not be in your area and are more than likely located out of state. This should be a major red flag if someone wants you to send money to them without meeting in person. Always be leery of that.
Another thing that scammers may ask you for are gift cards. This should be the biggest red flag to something being a scam because if someone wants to legitimately be paid for what they’re selling, especially since it would be a car in this case, you usually don’t pay with gift cards. Scammers usually request gift cards more than anything else and they want you to purchase many of them.
Scammers will also use fake checks and might say something along the lines of go ahead and deposit into your bank account, but they need a certain amount of money back for “fees”, processing, and getting the vehicle to you. This is all a sham to try to get money from you plus you could get into major trouble for trying to deposit or cash a check that is fraudulent. How are scammers getting away with this? We’ll look at that next.
Pretending To Be Someone Else
According to the article I mentioned earlier, scammers are getting away with this a lot of times because they are pretending to be someone else, in a lot of cases, they’ll claim that they are a car dealership with an unbelievable deal that you just can’t pass up.
The problem is, they’ll use the name of a reputable car dealership, ask you to send money to a specific location and then never hear back from them again. Then, when you contact the real dealership, they won’t know anything about it and have not seen any of the money that the scammers claimed would be sent to the dealership.
Next thing you know, you’re out of money and have no new vehicle to show for it and then the scammers are laughing all the way to their bank.
If someone is asking for cash up front, before you even can take a look at the vehicle, run away. It more than likely is a scam in which you’d become a victim. The problem with a lot of these ads online is that scammers will use pictures of cars from other ads or dealerships to make you think you’re getting one heck of a deal on that vehicle. The thing is though, you’ll never see that vehicle as they don’t have it.
This is why it is imperative you ask lots of questions and ask to see the vehicle in person LONG before you even think about having an exchange of money. If they refuse to do any of that, it is most likely a scam and you should just walk away from it because you’ll more than likely never see the vehicle they claim to be selling.
A Vehicle Other Than What Was Shown
There might be some scammers out there who actually do have a vehicle, however, if they agree to let you see it, the picture that was shown in the ad may be completely different from what you actually see or the vehicle is not in a good a shape as they claimed to be in the ad.
The scammers might claim that the vehicle you saw for sale on the ad happened to sell really quickly and so they decided to “sell” you another car they are supposedly trying to get rid of, but might say they have a better deal for you when in fact this “other” vehicle has major problems with it.
They might also refuse to disclose the history of the car such as whether it has had damage, vehicle recalls, had different kinds of titles such as a salvage title, been through a flood, etc. It’s very important to find out the history of a vehicle before you end up buying it because you don’t want to be stuck with a lemon as they say.
If you ever want to respond to a car ad, make sure you contact the seller and verify that the car you’re looking at is actually the one they are selling and ask to see it first long before you start discussing payment options.
It’s so easy to fall for scams these days and car buying scams online are just much more common now especially during this pandemic. If you suspect a car special online sounds too good to be true, that usually means it is and is bait to try to get you to fall for a scam.
If you do decide to bite on a car ad, again, make arrangements with the seller to look at the car and test drive it before you put up any kind of money for it and make absolutely sure that the price you saw it for online, is exactly what you’ll be paying for it.
Be sure to take someone with you so that you can help better protect yourself because you don’t know exactly what the seller or person claiming to be the seller is capable of. The more people you have with you, the better, but no more than two or three people.
If you don’t feel comfortable with it, then you don’t have to go through it. Make sure you it is something you’re comfortable with and always get a second opinion if needed when searching for a vehicle online. It’s much better to be safe than sorry these days because of all the scams going around.
Have you ever been the victim of a car ad online that turned out to be a scam? If so, did you lose quite a bit of money from that scam? Feel free to post your comments below.