Car buyers are being cheated every day by a common scam that is usually associated with Craigslist, as well as other online car-for-sale web sites.

Craigslist even posts warnings on their site about it but many buyers are so focused on the “deal of a lifetime” they’ve found that they don’t read the warnings.

It all starts with a car-for-sale ad that seems almost too good to be true (you know what they say about these kinds of deals). There is a beautiful picture and an alluring description of the car, even a VIN number, and a price is that seems unusually low. Except for maybe the low price, there is nothing about the ad that suggests a scam. The ad looks like any other ad, even the legitimate ones.

You won’t find anything to indicate a scam until you contact the “seller” via email. That’s when suspicious details come out.

We’ll leave all the details of how you detect this common fraud scheme in our article, Car Seller Scam, but we summarize here:

  • Seller is always someplace he/she can’t be contacted except by email — no telephone, no mail address
  • Seller often pretends to be a woman (more trustworthy?)
  • Seller often says he/she is in the military overseas or about to be shipped out
  • Seller goes into great detail to explain his situation why he’s selling for such a low price, and it’s often a real tear jerker
  • Seller is usually not in the same location as his car — and there are reasons you can’t actually see the car
  • Seller says he’ll ship you the car, for free,  and that you have a number of days to accept or ship back for free
  • Seller says your payment money will be “protected” by eBay, Yahoo, Amazon, PayPal or some other known agency

The bottom line is that there is no car (the ad photo and car information was simply copied off the Internet). It’s a real car — it just doesn’t belong to the “seller.”

The seller is most likely in a foreign country (typically Eastern Europe) where he can’t be found and prosecuted, he uses a temporary email address that can’t be traced, and there is no eBay, PayPal, Amazon “payment protection” service (they send you a fake web site page to which you send your money).

In summary, there is no car, there is no “seller”, and your money goes directly to the scammer, who can’t be found and arrested. You get no car and you lose your money, with no way to ever get it back. It’s always good to buy only local cars from people you can meet and talk to directly.

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