Car buying is in high demand in today’s market. When looking for a new vehicle, people are more informed and empowered than ever because of their access to research online before going to a dealer or talking to a salesperson on the phone. Whether you’re shopping for a new or used car, there are many advantages to buying your car online. It is convenient (you can shop from anywhere with access to the internet), saves you time (you can shop anytime, day or night), and there’s no pressure from a pushy salesperson.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals are aware of this too. They constantly look for opportunities to steal your money and identity. They create fake websites, emails, and false ads to convince you that what they’re selling is legitimate. However, the more aware you are of their schemes, the better prepared you are to protect yourself from being a victim of fraud. Here are a few red flags to be watchful of:
Be aware of the ads you see online at popular sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay Motors. Scammers frequently use these marketplace sites to post fake ads. The ads look convincing, but they are deceptive. For example, the scammer will post a picture of a nice car, along with a description and a phone number or email address of the fake seller. Before you make any contact with the seller, search their name, phone number, and email. You’ll also want to include with their name words like “complaint,” “review,” and “scam” in your search.
An escrow is an independent third-party that holds and protects your funds until a transaction is complete. Scammers will misuse the names of popular companies like Craigslist, PayPal, or eBay to convince the unsuspecting buyer that their money is safe and protected until they receive the vehicle and inspect its condition. Then, the scammer will send instructions to the buyer requesting they send the money by wire transfer or gift cards. Sending money using these methods is untraceable, making it easy for the scammer to get away with the crime.
"Always do your research on the vehicle before your make contact with the seller."
Who doesn’t want a good deal on a car? Buying a car can be expensive, but if the price seems too good to be true, be cautious. It’s probably a scam. Always do your research on the vehicle before your make contact with the seller. Scammers will price the car at a low price, trying to convince you it’s a deal. When you see this happening, it’s a red flag. An excellent place to start your research is the Kelly Blue Book, which allows you to see the vehicle value and pricing.
It’s a red flag if a seller requests payment in the form of gift cards. The scammer may request this form of payment because it’s difficult to trace, and it could be difficult to get your money back. No legitimate dealer will request you pay with a gift card.
The scammer’s goal is to close the deal as quickly as possible. They don’t want to give you time to research the vehicle because they know it’s not legitimate. The scammer may claim they need to sell the car right away. They may try to use convincing excuses such as they’re being deployed overseas, going through a divorce, or they may share a sad story about mourning the loss of a loved one who owned the vehicle, and having the car brings back sad memories.
"Insist on inspecting the vehicle prior to purchase but don't go alone. Instead, you and someone you trust should meet the seller in person in a public location so you can check the car."
Dishonest sellers will make up excuses for not being available to meet to allow the buyer to inspect the vehicle before making the purchase. For example, they may claim safety concerns due to the pandemic or tell you a sad story as a reason for not meeting in person. Insist on inspecting the vehicle prior to purchase but don’t go alone. Instead, you and someone you trust should meet the seller in person in a public location so you can check the car. Avoid meeting someone alone you don’t know.