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How to Avoid Online Car Scams


When you find a used car online for sale, don’t click on the buy button right away. Or else, disappointment is going to be in the view. Here are some of the ways on how to avoid online car scams.

Nowadays, everything is up for sale online—literally everything, including used cars. In fact, there are a lot of groups and pages on social media platforms specializing on selling cars. However, it is not wise to simply shell out your cash and give it away to a potential scammer. The FBI has already warned about online car scams to consumers. According to the FBI, the criminals may “post fraudulent online classified advertisements offering vehicles for sale that are not, nor have ever been, in their possession.”

how-avoid-online-car-scams chatting with a scammer

Talking about avoiding scams is easy. However, these crafty fraudsters can create compelling and authentic-posts that can easily attract and lure people into their trap. To help you out with that, here are some ways on how to avoid online car scams. We also added some tips on determining whether or not a used car for sale is a scam.

How To Spot A Car Scam Online

When you’re looking for something to buy online, then you’re on every scammer’s crosshair. These scammers are so cunning that you may not even know that you’re being scammed in the first place. Luckily, there are telltale signs and red flags you can look out for when transacting with an online seller. Here are some tips on how to spot a car scam online. These tips can help prevent fraudulent individuals from stealing your money and getting away with it.

The Golden Rule Of Buying Applies Online

You’ve probably heard of this line before, but we cannot reiterate enough. When a post online sounds too good to be true, then it most definitely is. Every buyer should adhere to this rule most of the time, especially when buying things online. We understand that some used car sellers price their cars low. Sometimes, their reasons are valid, such as high mileage.

However, when you find a used car listing that has all the features and specs of a brand new car and priced below $5000, then you really have to start questioning it. Some sellers may say it is due to an emergency, and they needed the money to fix some financial matters. Again, these reasons may be true. But, do you really want to gamble and take time on that? The next time you see a listing that looks too good to be true, it might be a scam. Avoid it at all costs.

Do Some Thorough Research

Most scammers are on social media platforms like Facebook because it’s free. Apart from that, being on Facebook makes them untraceable by the average folks. They also often change their name and account to avoid getting caught. To help you determine whether it’s an online car scam or not, you need to dig further into the buyer’s account. The first thing you can do is check on their profile and see how long the account has been on the platform. When you see that the user made the account weeks or even days ago, it’s most likely a scam. Also, when there are no photos of the person selling, it’s a most likely a bogus account created to scam people. Some scammers use pictures of other people to make it appear like a real account, so be extra careful.

Another way to research is the account’s activity. Search the name of the account and see if the results come back with negative posts. When it does, then you don’t need to waste time as it is a pricey mis-hap waiting to happen.

“VIN” There, Done That

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a critical code that buyers should know to avoid car scams online. According to Wikipedia, a VIN is a unique code made up of letters and numbers to identify a specific vehicle, whether cars, motorcycles, and even trucks. The reason why knowing the VIN of a car is essential is because, as mentioned, it is unique to every vehicle, and a seller should know the VIN of the vehicle they’re selling. VINs are also essential to trace a vehicle’s history, like if it has been in an accident or not, and other vital information.

When you see someone selling used cars online, you can ask for the VIN of the vehicle you’re wanting to buy. If the seller doesn’t know the VIN – or doesn’t even know what a VIN is – that is a definite red flag. You may need to look elsewhere.

Seller Is Trying To Hurry You Up

One more way to distinguish whether you’re looking at an online car scam is when the seller is in a rush to dispose of their “car for sale”. Of course, sellers have their reasons why they’re selling their vehicles online. However, when they become too pushy or eager for you to buy it as soon as possible, then they’re most likely trying their best to scam your money out of your bank account.

There are dozens of reasons or excuses that scammers use to explain the sale. However, there are a couple of these reasons that become their go-to when they’re scamming. One of the most common alibis is that they’re in the military and needed to deploy to another state. Another bestseller is that they’re undergoing a divorce, and the vehicle is part of the settlement. The last one, and the grimmest of all, is that a dead relative owned the car.

Now, it doesn’t mean that these reasons are invalid, but when you encounter a reason like the ones mentioned, it is wise to dig deeper into their situation. Ask more questions and make sure that all their answers are coherent. For this, you still need your gut feeling. When it doesn’t feel right, then it must not be right. When they’re extra pushy, then consider that as a red flag.

Useful Tips To Avoid Online Car Scams

In 2014, Americans lost more than half a billion dollars in scams. According to the same report by the FBI, they received more than a quarter of a million complaints in the same year. Since this year allowed most of us to do shopping online, even when shopping for vehicles, you should learn how to not fall on the scam traps. Here are some useful tips on how to avoid online car scams.

Don’t Wire Your Money To A Stranger

If you don’t personally know the seller, then don’t engage in the transaction. The fundamental rule here is that you should know the person you’re going to wire the money to for a very long time. You should even be wary with short term acquaintances when they ask you for money through wire transfer. This also goes with people trying to scam you with online cars.

Before you decide to buy the car, you must ask what their preferred mode of payment is. If they ask for a wire transfer, you must ask if there is someone else, like payment through the website or app. When they insist on a wire transfer, then there’s a big chance that you’re not going to get the car and never see your money again. Hence, you must decline.

As Much As Possible, Buy Local

Not only will it help the local economy, but it can also spare you from online car scams. It is much more difficult for scammers to fool buyers online when the ones they’re negotiating with live in the area. When the seller is near, you can quickly arrange a meet-up. This makes your purchase much faster and safer. Also, you don’t have to worry about delivery issues and damaged parts. As for the legit seller, having a buyer near them would make the transition much faster, and they can get the money right away.

Have A Professional Inspect The Car

Last on this list of tips to avoid online car scams is probably the most essential of all. Online car scams don’t only mean fraudsters are getting away with your money. They can also deliver the car to you which, at first, may look capable, but will have problems as soon as you start driving it around. When that happens, the scammer has already left with your money and without a trace.

To avoid this type of scam, you can ask an expert mechanic to give the vehicle a check. Vehicle experts would know what’s wrong with a car with just a few looks. This way assures you that the vehicle you’re about to buy has no defects and mechanical issues whatsoever. Also, this will signal sellers that you’re taking the purchase seriously.

These are our suggestions on how to avoid online scams. Cars for sale online may be tempting at times, but you really have to protect your money from scammers as they can get really crafty with their scamming skills. That’s why you can never go wrong with buying at legit used car dealerships. Many of these dealerships are now also selling their vehicles online, so you would know that they provide quality cars without the fear of getting scammed. Some dealerships also provide vehicle condition reports, making it easier for buyers to check on the vehicle’s condition without checking it personally.

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