How do you recognize a scam on a used car website? To recognize a scam on a used car website you need to check names, addresses and phone numbers. Never send money in advance or accept checks as payment. We’ll show you how to spot it in a few simple steps.
Like any car enthusiast, I like the movies of John Frankenheimer -another gas station fanatic-. In one of my favorites, Ronin, there is a phrase that comes “in the hair” for this article. Jean Reno asks Robert de Niro how he knew they were going to be ambushed. The answer is forceful and very useful to apply it in our daily life: “If there is any doubt, it is that there is no doubt”.
With that premise in mind, here is my first piece of advice to avoid falling into the trap of some con artist who has published a false sales ad or wants to buy your used car: if you have the slightest doubt about his true intentions or something gives you a bad feeling, let it go; there will be other opportunities.
Whenever money or goods are involved, there is always the possibility of being a victim of a scam. It is better to be alert and follow some advice. The Internet is a double-edged sword: it allows you to remain anonymous and reach many potential suspects, but you can also find a lot of information and compare it… So the clues as to whether you are facing a scam or not can also be found on the web.
What are the typical scams in used car ads
Although con artists are very creative and every day a new idea emerges to take advantage of the unwary, there are some scams that are very common. Here are some typical ones that will help you to be on the alert if you find a similar pattern in your dealings with the alleged scammer.
The car is abroad and they ask us for a deposit or reservation
This is one of the most common scams: we see an ad for a car, usually at a fairly attractive price to capture our attention.
When we contact the seller, he tells us that he is living abroad and that he has to get rid of the car, that we can send a signal for a certain value and that this money will remain as a deposit so that he can send us the car.
This type of scam is very easy to unmask. The first thing to look at is the photograph that accompanies the text; it is probably an official image from the car’s catalogue, so look for that photo on other websites that are not for sale. Try to contact the seller by phone, look for inconsistencies in the emails he sends you…
Personally, I have come across this type of announcement several times: I have sent an email saying that I have a friend living in your city and that he will personally contact them to see the car. They have never responded, making it clear that it is a scam.
This scam has its reverse version: a “buyer” contacts us interested in the ad in which we sell our vehicle.
He will tell us that he lives abroad and that he wants to buy it, that he pays us more than we ask for so that we can pay for the transport to his country and that the money will remain on consignment until he receives the car. Once he has it in his possession, this money can be withdrawn from that “financial entity”.
The fact that they are paying us more than we are asking for should already smell like burnt horn’; remember: if there is any doubt, it is that there is no doubt’. Look on the Internet for information about the company you want to use to make the payment, transport, etc… You will clearly see that this is a scam.
The buyer wants to pay us with a check
Unfortunately, bad checks are as common as rain in the fall: my advice is to always be wary of a check in the first place. Only if it’s a cashier’s check can you trust it… more or less. Here’s how it works, for example:
The buyer-scammer is out of Spain. He sends you a cheque for 7,500 euros, for example (6,000 + 1,500 for transport costs). When you deposit the check for 7,500 euros in your account, you are asked to transfer 1,500 euros to a carrier’s account (that account is false).
Two days later, the buyer-scammer calls you asking for the 6,000 euros back because he no longer wants to buy the bike. Four days later -when the bank carries out the verification-, your bank notifies you: the cheque you had deposited has no funds. You have lost 7,500 euros.
There is no sale of the ad
This scam is quite elaborate: these are “professionals” who have their own portal, where they display their cars, all looking very good and serious. Many of them even put ads on other car-buying portals to attract more unwary people than if they did it only through their website.
They operate for a while and then they shut down the site. Their excuse is that they are located in another country and ask you for a deposit as a reservation. Of course, as soon as you send the money, they stop taking your calls and emails.