Scammers target online car buyers

2 October 2007

Fake advertisements offering used vehicles for lower than expected prices continue to appear on Australian car websites, online classifieds and online auction sites.

If you are in the market for a good deal on a used vehicle, make sure you do your homework and know how to look out for scams.

The ads can appear on any genuine website or classifieds. They generally look exactly like the real thing, but usually offer the vehicle at a price much lower than expected - generally for around $10,000 or less.

Sometimes the scammer will replicate a genuine seller’s advertisement and just change the price and contact details, so even if you do all the right vehicle checks (such as the VIN), it may seem to you that the car actually exists.

The seller will usually provide a very realistic reason why the vehicle is being sold at below market price. For example, the seller may say they have to move overseas very suddenly, and need the cash to finance the move.

By attaching urgency to it, the seller aims to rush the potential buyer into paying for the vehicle without actually seeing it.

It's not uncommon for the scammer to remove the advertisement from a website once an interested buyer has made contact. Sometimes the ad is only up for an hour or two before it's taken down.

Fake sellers often request that payment be made through an online banking transfer or a wire transfer - this may be an indicator that the transaction is going overseas.

Once the scammer gets your money, you will probably never be able to make contact again. You certainly won't ever see the vehicle you thought you purchased.

Tips for potential buyers

  • Don't rush into deals that seem too good to be true
  • Be wary of purchasing a vehicle that you are unable to see
  • Take time to verify the vehicle's details and location
  • Avoid trading with people who want to make a sale outside of the auction process. If you do this, you lose any protections that the website operator offer to their users
  • Avoid dealing with anyone who asks for payment via wire transfer
  • Never send your personal, credit card or online account details through an email

Visit SCAMwatch to find out more about up-front payment scams, online auction & shopping scams, and how you can protect yourself from scams.

To report a suspected scam, visit the report a scam page.

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