Avoiding Scams

Unfortunately, scams have long been a part of the used car business...especially the private party transaction. Worse, the Internet has opened up plenty of new territory to fleece artists.

Look for these warning signs that someone might be trying to lure you into a scam:

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  2. The buyer is asking you to wire him money.

  3. The buyer is avoiding meeting you, face-to-face.

  4. The buyer uses email only for correspondence, and the email is poorly or oddly worded.

  5. The email exchange starts with a legitimate question about the car, but quickly veers into odd questions.

  6. The buyer is located overseas.

The most common scam is overpayment on the part of the buyer.

In this scam, the buyer tells you that he has a bank check for an amount greater than your asking price. He asks if he can send you that check, and you wire him the difference.

You agree, the deposit even shows up in your bank statement. The only problem? A few days later, after you've already wired the money, your bank is alerted that the check was phony. By this point, it's too late. You've already wired the money to the scam artist.

If you're using cars.com to buy or sell a car, you're somewhat safer, since it makes use of sophisticated programming to filter out scam artists, and it reviews all ads before they're placed.