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Advice about Scams

 
Buying a car? Here are some scams you should keep an eye out for. Related Links
General Scam Warnings
Selling Scams
Text Message Scam Warning

False Escrow Services

A scam that has been happening since about 2002 is false Escrow services. Quite often these websites look legitimate, however they all tend to run off one of a series of templates that the scammers themselves have made. While this is something that occurs more often than not in regards to online auctions, it's still something to be wary of.

The basic rundown of it is that the seller, who will generally claim to be fanatical about protecting themselves and their buyers from fraud, will point you to use an escrow company that they've dealt with many times both as buyer and seller. This escrow company will be fake, and any transaction done through them will generally end up in the money going to some overseas bank account that you don't know of and your money will be lost, and you won't receive any goods.

If a seller recommends you to use a particular escrow company, generally be wary of the entire situation. Most sellers should generally accept cash, direct deposit, or cheque (though they most likely will want to wait until the cheque clears before they will hand over the keys).

The Fake Car
-- Too cheap to be true? It usually is!

You're looking around for a car, visiting the online car sale sites and you see a car that's relatively new, and it's selling for an unbelievably low price.

There's a reason it's selling for an unbelievably low price. It's almost guaranteed to be a scam.

You send an email to the seller, asking for more information about the car and why it's going for such a low price. They reply giving you a huge background story of their situation and why they are selling the car. The common reasons given lately are "work moved me over to xxxxx and I can't drive a right hand drive car here", "going through a divorce and I don't need the car", or "I lost my job and now I need to sell the car".

The car will be located overseas, and the seller is willing to freight the car back to Australia, at no cost to you. Alarm bells should be ringing here. But they tell you they are either an affiliated eBay trader, and that they use something like an "eBay Purchase Protection Account" so that eBay will guarantee the transaction between you and the seller and that if you aren't happy within 5-15 days of receiving the car you can ship the car back to them at the sellers expense, or they have been using this one escrow payment service for months or years that they've never had an issue with (and it'll be a fake website specifically setup for these people to do their scams with).

The truth is the seller doesn't actually have this car. All they've done is scour some online car sales sites, find the details (such as the Vehicle Identification Number) and some pictures of the car they want to pretend they are selling, and listed it elsewhere for a cheap cheap price.

By getting a VIN of the vehicle they are selling (not necessarily the one they are advertising), when you do a REVS check or similar on the vehicle, it can easily come up as being unencumbered etc, and checks out as a legitimate vehicle.

Furthermore, eBay doesn't offer "Protection" services for sales (auctions) that are not handled through eBay. It goes straight to the bank account of the scammer, the scammer disappears with your money, and you'll never see the car.

In Summary

In summary, the major details of the scam tend to stay the same:

  • Relatively new car for sale
  • Unbelievably cheap
  • Located overseas, but will freight the car to you at no cost. (And freight is NOT cheap on a vehicle to send overseas)

The only thing that tends to change is vehicle, and the reason for selling the car. Divorce, loss of job, etc.

Unless you're buying something pretty particular (in which case you're probably willing to fly interstate to inspect the car), you're probably better off trying to buy locally.

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