The most common car scam is one in which a nice car is listed for sale at a low price on Craigslist.com, Autotrader.com, or other web site.
There is no hint, other than the low price, that it is a scam. They show you a couple of good pictures of the car and even provide the VIN number.
So, what’s the problem.
The problem is that the picture of the car and the VIN were snagged somewhere on the Internet and it’s not the “seller’s” car. In fact, the “seller” is only trying to get your attention so that he can separate you from your money.
You won’t find out enough details to determine it’s a scam until you contact the “seller.” At that time you’ll get an email from him much like this one:
First of all I want to thank you for your interest in my 2005 Acura TL 3.2L V6. I am selling the car because I’m in the US Army and my unit will be sent to Kuwait and I don’t want it to get old in my garage. The price is low because I need to sell it before March 15th. The Acura is in excellent condition and runs great. It has only 79,200 miles, clean title. It has no damage, no scratches, never involved in an accident, everything works as it should with no hidden issues. Price as stated in the ad is $2.280. The car is in Fargo, ND; in case it gets sold I will take care of the shipping.
Here’s some photos, in case you want to see more: http://s1285.beta.photobucket.com/user/acuratlblack4dr/library/
I will ship it through DAS shipping company. I will take care of the shipping to your location with no extra expense to you, like I said. I think I can have it sent to your location in 4-5 working days. I am a member of the eBay BuyBack Program and using this service you will get a 3 days testing period after delivery.
During that 3 days testing period I will not be getting any money. I need to know if you are interested in buying it so I can ask eBay to send you the details on how this works. If interested please include in your next email your contact info for eBay ( full name, full shipping address and phone no.) so we can get things started.
I will be waiting for your reply.
So what are the indicators that this is a scam?
First, the seller and the car are never in the same location. The nice seller is supposedly somewhere where you can’t meet him or even call him on the phone. He says he’ll ship you the car, free of charge and that you have a number of days to look it over before deciding to keep it or ship it back, free of charge. He also tells you that your money is “protected” by Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Google or some other make-believe escrow service. If you decide to buy, he’ll direct you to a (fake) Amazon, eBay, PayPal, or Google web page that instructs you to send money. When you do, the money goes straight to the scammer. You never receive a car and you’ll never hear from the seller again. And you can bet his name isn’t Eric, or Tiffany, or Sandra. It’s more likely something like Romeo who lives in Romania, in Eastern Europe.
Although this is a very common scam and web sites such as Craigslist post warnings about it, unsuspecting buyers are getting caught by it every day, blinded by the notion of getting an unbelieveable deal on a nice car.
A good common-sense rule for buying used cars is to always buy locally where you can see and drive the car, and meet with the seller. Remember the old saying, “if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.”