It has become commonplace to buy and sell anything on the internet, including cars, SUVs and trucks. And like all online business transactions, buyers need to be vigilant about fraudulent sellers, and sellers need to alert about fraudulent buyers. Despite these risks, there are opportunities to get great deals that they would not see at a dealership or used car lot.
Common scams to watch for
Savvy online consumers will quickly recognize some of the cruder attempts to scam unsuspecting victims. Sometimes it is harder to spot the red flags:
- Paying by check: Checks have become less common, but stolen, counterfeit or bounced checks can happen. Some even use fraudulent cashier’s checks for over the amount of the sale to get a refund on the overage.
- Seller is military: They are stationed overseas and need to sell the vehicle to get money or buy a car for their return.
- Priced well below market value: Any price that seems too good to be true often is.
- No phone number: Beware if a posting does not include a phone number.
- Online escrow service: The seller may demand an online “escrow” service of their choice, which may not be reputable.
- Pickup agent: Beware of someone buying who claims to be the pickup agent.
- Western Union: Different countries have different laws or less interest in enforcing them, so be very careful in wiring money abroad.
- In a rush: It is a red flag if they seem anxious to conclude the deal quickly, perhaps trying to cut corners to do so.
Consumer fraud all too common
Careful buyers and sellers can even protect themselves from professional scammers. There is less chance of a scam by being careful, but if it does occur, there may still be opportunities to file a criminal complaint or civil action against the fraudster.