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Put the brakes on phony online car sales

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You can buy practically anything online, including used cars. But before you shell out any hard-earned cash, here’s a warning about scammers trying to sell cars they don’t have or own.

Here’s how the scam works: Criminals post ads on online auction and sales websites, like eBay Motors, for inexpensive used cars (that they don’t really own). They offer to chat online, share photos, and answer questions. They may even tell you the sale will go through a well-known retailer’s buyer protection program. Recently, sellers have been sending fake invoices that appear to come from eBay Motors and demanding payment in eBay gift cards. If you call the number on the invoice, the scammer pretends to work for eBay Motors. Trusting buyers have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past year alone.

So how can you tell if an online car sale is fake?

  • You find bad reviews online. Check out the seller by searching online for the person’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”
  • Sellers try to rush the sale. Resist the pressure. Scammers use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy without thinking things through.
  • They can’t or won’t meet in person or let you inspect the car. Scammers might have an excuse, like a job transfer, military deployment, or divorce, for why you can’t see them or the car. But experts agree that you should have an independent mechanic inspect a used car before you buy it.
  • They want you to pay with gift cards or by wire transfer. If anyone tells you to pay that way, it’s a scam. Every time.
  • The sellers demand more money after the sale for “shipping” or “transportation” costs.
  • The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) doesn’t match the VIN for the car you’re interested in. A vehicle history report can help you spot such discrepancies.

For more tips, check out and Online Auction Buyers. Want to avoid the latest rip-offs? Sign up for free consumer alerts from the FTC at If you spot a scam, report it at


Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


Scammers are also selling hulks onl eBay and misrepenting the condition. When the hulk arrives, eBay will tell you that you bought a car and you got a car and will not assist you with the purchase.

Good info as I am in the market for a vehicle.

Beware of water cars lots of flooding in south and other parts of country I have seen car fax reports where many are for sale in Tennessee but we’re from Texas and Florida

They also take pictures of vehicles, in out of the way places like gravel roads, empty lots, or cars that are viewed through trees or other shrubbery, as not to reveal any site details. This may also be indicative of a stolen vehicle.

Buyers of RVs beware of scammers pretending to work though e bay and using the same tactics listed above. Beware of Craigslist and RV trader sites. They are FULL of these fraudulent entries.
Scary! I learned my lesson and luckily they got nothing from me.

Don't expect help from ebay, read the fine print very carefully. I purchased a utility vehicle , normally sold nation wide thru auction by specialized companies - first time it was perfect; year later this time I lost $15000 because the seller lied about everything, even when directly questioned about specifics and pictures - filed a complaint with ebay and got no help

excellent article. thanks!

Watch out for the buyers also, that reach out to you to purchase an item you are selling. They say, I will mail a certified Cashiers Check, and arrange a company for pickup. What really happens is, yes.. There is a cashiers check, yes there is a group of people that come get your items.. what you don't know is the cashiers check is fake.. so while you are watching your items and or car being removed, your holding on to a fake cashiers check. You were just robbed and are probably watching your items go down the street :(

You are correct and I just went thru thyis as a seller on C.L but the part you left out was them asking for my name and which bank I use. that has happened the last 2 times on Craiigslist. Bottom line is everybody needs to be cautious and to keep your guard up. the little voice in your head going " WARNING -WARNING" is usually right. after the fact is too late to resolve a bad situation

Saw a nice truck on Autotrader, low price, "she" won it in the divorce is going to deploy with the AirForce and needs to sell quickly. Plates in photo were BC, not ontario, wanted money taken to a convenience store and put into Bitcoin. All protection plan through eBay Motors and even spoke to customer support person. After deposting money in BitCoin truck would be sent to us and we would have 5 days to inspect. Could return truck at no cost. Thank God we listened to intuition... too good to be true!

how can a used car advertise.. was $$ now $$ when theris no msrp

Scams and fraud are not exclusive to buyers but sellers as well. Selling my Toyota Tundra through Craigslist to person who claims to be military. They claimed they cannot come to see the vehicle, but agree right away to purchase. They indicate they cannot go to their bank but will transfer the funds through PayPal and then ask for your personal account information. They tell you they will have a third party come pick-up and sign for the vehicle. The grammar is poor and they stress their honesty, but cannot meet, deal directly, or provide legitimate funds for purchase. Please note that all of these are indicators and shown in both Craigslist and PayPal indicating a potentially fraudulent or scamming purchase;... buyer and seller beware!

I almost fell for a scam "eautowin traders", they had a professional looking website. eautowin . com / consignment-centralstore / search- stock/ HG557464. html.
Turns out the truck was on another sellers legitimate website, in fact it had already been sold. Phony invoice, looked real to me
Online live chat, I questioned the legitimacy of the truck and they terminated the chat. Bottom line do your research and question everything!!!

Beware of vehicles shipped or transferred in from southern states . Im the 2016-17 hurricanes and flooding .

A new twist on this is where it's posted via NextDoor (a neighborhood social media site) from a real person in the local community but apparently it's a fabricated NextDoor profile. It tells you to email her 'aunt' directly for more info. Of course, the aunt is in VA and ready to deploy with her infantry and needs to sell the car asap and is willing to sell it cheap...

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