By on August 16, 2011

The International Crime Complaint Center (IC3) warns that

Online vehicle shoppers are being victimized by fraudulent vehicle sales and false claims of vehicle protection (VPP) programs… Criminals also attempt to make their scams appear valid by misusing the names of reputable companies and programs. These criminals have no association with these companies and their schemes give buyers instructions which fail to adhere to the rules and restrictions of any legitimate program. For example, the eBay Motors Vehicle Protection Plan (VPP) is a reputable protection program whose name is commonly misused by these criminals. However, the VPP is not applicable to transactions that originate outside of eBay Motors, and it prohibits wire transfer payments. Nevertheless, criminals often promise eBay Motors VPP protections for non-eBay Motors purchases, and instruct victims to pay via Western Union or MoneyGram.

No wonder online new car sales have been struggling. Hit the jump for IC3′s list of warning signs.

According to the center’s release, buyers should beware

  • Sellers who want to move the transaction from one platform to another (for example, Craigslist to eBay Motors).
  • Sellers who claim that a buyer protection program offered by a major Internet company covers an auto transaction conducted outside that company’s site.
  • Sellers who push for speedy completion of the transaction and request payments via quick wire transfer payment systems.
  • Sellers who refuse to meet in person, or refuse to allow the buyer to physically inspect the vehicle before the purchase.
  • Transactions where the seller and vehicle are in different locations. Criminals often claim to have been transferred for work reasons, deployed by the military, or moved because of a family circumstance, and could not take the vehicle with them.
  • Vehicles advertised at well below their market value. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

The LA Times reports that scammers recently used and Edmunds.com lookalike page to defraud online car buyers. Keep a watchful eye on all online auto sellers, and be sure to report any attempts of fraud to local law enforcement, the IC3 and, if you want to take justice into your own hands, write up your experience for TTAC. To defeat scammers, we all need to pull together.

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12 Comments on “Consumer Alert: Beware Online Car-Selling Scams...”


  • avatar
    ott

    Countless times I receive emails at our dealership asking about one of our cars for sale. Usually with horrible grammar and spelling mistakes, with a name like Joe Smith as the sender. When I dutifully reply that the car is still available, I get an email explaining that he’s buying the car for his father/brother/mother/uncle as a surprise and that he’s currently serving on a ship overseas so the money will be transferred by bla bla bla. I reply with “Cash only in person or no deal.”

    Never did sell a car to that guy…

  • avatar

    “Offers to ship a vehicle are virtually 100% fraudulent.” – craigslist

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    This is precisely why I like to go to an actual dealer rather than risk having something bad happen online. If I get ripped off for a $10 CD I’m a little miffed, but if I get ripped off on a multi-thousand dollar car I’m forked.

    I’m kind of a ludite that way.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    * “Sellers who refuse to meet in person, or refuse to allow the buyer to physically inspect the vehicle before the purchase.” <– THAT WOULD BE A DEAL BREAKER on any vehicle purchase.

    Craigslist can be a veritable minefield. I've met a couple of sellers whose name was not the one on the title. Another, was selling a Tacoma 4×4 below KBB and wanted cash only – but would not meet me at my bank to receive payment – which meant no deal, because I don't do business in parking garages.

    I won't list the maintenance problems with some of the vehicles sold on Craigslist – but poor maintenance is responsible for most of my deal killers.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    There are a few folks online that make it a game to bait these scammers. For example, they’ll send the scammer an empty box, or garbage, to his overseas address. At the scammer’s expense. One scammer thought that he was getting a crated sportbike. He actually wound up receiving a busted-up bicycle and some bricks!

    I found a too-low BMW convertible online once. Of course, the guy recently moved out of state but I can send him the money and he would ship the car to me. I told him that I’ll take time off work and go to pick up the car if he gave me his address. I never heard back.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I just wish people could WRITE useable online ads. About half of them are incorrect. Some are out right lies (scammers), other are just uninformed or misinformed mistakes. I learn more by looking at photos to determine packages & options. I swear most of these people (even dealerships!) don’t have a clue as what they are selling. For example our Volvo C30 was listed as an R-Design, but it was actually a 2.0 edition, the differences are easy to spot: body colored ground effects kit, blue gauges, different rims.

    Now I’m looking to buy a used 350Z and seen countless cars marketed as the rare Nismo edition or Grand Touring when they are clearly Base or Track models. For example there is no such thing as a Base Z with cruise control, yet you’ll see them listed. Do they have aftermarket cruise installed? I doubt it, the Z forums claim its a major expense requiring a whole new ECU (drive by wire). I’ve seen models listed with Brembo brakes just because someone painted the stock calipers, which would be a complete rip off to the uninformed. Also some people make up trim levels: the “Performance Edition” Z? no such thing beyond 2006 but it sounds cool so people list base 2008s that way. Buyer beware indeed.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    It really doesn’t take a PhD in Rocket Surgery to figure out what Craigslist ads (and replies) are scams, so why do they keep doing it? It’s becoming impossible to find an apartment on CL because of all the geniuses who post an ad and when you e-mail them they reply with “hello good sir I am currently on Peace Corpse trip to Lagos, Nigeria so please send first month’s rent via Western Union and I will then send you keys to apartment” or whatever. Now they the car ads are getting the same way, too. Does anyone actually fall for this crap?

    • 0 avatar
      ott

      Hey! I think you were talking to the guy who emailed me about one of our cars! Was his name Joe Smith? Hahaha

      And sadly, yes, some naive people do fall for this crap. If they didn’t, there would be no crap to deal with.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    My receptionist was about to wire money to the seller of an Audi A4 purportedly being sold by a divorcee at less than half its value that would be shipped 500 miles for free. The ad included a picture of the car in front of an Infiniti dealer.

    If I hadn’t overheard him talking about the purchase and talked him out of it, he would have gone through with it.

    (He would probably be better off getting scammed than actually getting the car–the ownership costs would have crushed him.)

  • avatar
    obbop

    In other words…. the scammed are the same bunch falling for the immense volume of words spewed by office-seeking or office-hoped-to-retain politicos.

    Squawk ad infinitum.

  • avatar
    Les

    Encountered one of these on AutotraderClassic. Found a ’69 Camaro Convertable for under three grand that sounded too good to be true, but looking at the picture with it’s aftermarket rims and seats I told myself maybe he desperately needed a mortgage payment and he’d ended-up ‘blinging’ himself out of the usual price-territory real collectors would consider. Two e-mails in of what was basically the words of the original add slightly re-arranged and a note that the seller himself was off in Britain despite the car being supposedly within driving-distance of my home I almost wept at the realization that it was indeed too good to be true.


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