Used cars are in high demand, and scammers know it. Con artists are taking advantage of shoppers who turn to online platforms in search of a reasonably priced used vehicle. Be wary of this latest twist and too-good-to-be-true prices.

How The Scam Works

You are shopping for a used vehicle on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or another online platform. You find the make and model you want at an excellent price. Amazing!

However, when you contact the seller, you find out that the vehicle is in another city. Fortunately, the seller knows a transport company that can deliver it to you. All you need to do is pay the transport company, which will hold the funds in escrow until the vehicle is delivered. Many scammers will add a sad story meant to tug on your heartstrings. For example, they may claim the car belonged to a relative who has passed away.

In one example recent report, the scammer claimed to be selling a car on behalf of their aunt, who inherited it from her recently deceased father. “The ‘Auntie’ claimed she was a nurse and worked shifts, and that my daughter’s original email had fallen into her junk folder. The ‘Auntie’ had moved to another province thousands of miles from us. But if my daughter wanted to purchase the car for the stated price (which was well under the going price for a vehicle of this type, year and mileage), the Auntie had a contract with an automotive transport company.”

Once you’ve paid the third-party company, usually by a wire transfer or prepaid debit card, your vehicle won’t be delivered. The sale was a scam, and the con artist was in cahoots with the third-party transport company. Unfortunately, your money is gone for good.

How To Avoid Car Sales Scams

  • Watch out for prices that are too good to be true. It’s probably a scam. Scammers know that used cars are in high demand, and they will tempt shoppers with great deals.
  • Contact the seller by phone. As early as possible, speak to the seller on the phone and ask plenty of questions. If you get very vague answers, if the seller gets defensive or aggressive, or if they can’t confirm their location or the location of the vehicle, you’re probably dealing with a scammer.
  • See the car before you buy it. Always make an in-person inspection and take a test drive before you purchase a vehicle.
  • Don’t give in to threats or pressure. Resist the urge to act immediately. Always take time to consider a purchase, especially if it’s a vehicle that costs thousands of dollars.
  • Don’t wire funds for a car. Scammers often ask for wired funds because they are hard to track, and there’s no way to get your money back. It’s best to make large purchases by check or credit card.

Source: BBB.org

For more information, see this BBB Investigation on vehicle shipper and escrow scams. To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to https://www.bbb.org.