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Advice about scams
Forged Bank Cheques
If you're selling a car, you're probably already wary of people wanting to pay by cheque. However most people probably wouldn't think that a bank cheque can be forged. The wait until the bank clears the cheque, can actually take up to two weeks.
You can verify bank cheques with the issuing bank. If you can't verify it with a phone call to the bank, do not accept the cheque.
The Bank Cheque and Refund Scam
One of the most common scams going around hitting internet car sales sites is one where a person emails you, supposedly on behalf of their client who is overseas, that they are buying a vehicle on behalf of, and who will be organising shipping to them.
Their client is keen to buy the vehicle, sight unseen (apart from a few photos on the internet), without a test drive, and for what every seller wants to hear, their asking price, no haggling.
The obvious question is why would someone buy a car from another country and ship it to them, when the vehicle likely would not comply with local regulations, may have the wrong speedo fitted (a country where they use miles per hour instead of kilometers), when they could buy a vehicle in their own country for a lot less than what it would cost to ship it over to them? The answer is that it's a scam, and all they want is your cash, and could care less about the car.
How does this scam work?
You advertise your car for sale on any of the online car sales sites, and a little while after it's listed you receive an email (often with bad English - which is a nice giveaway, as most often the country for it to be shipped to is somewhere in Africa) from an interested buyer who wants to buy your car for full price, without seeing or examining it.
They will tell you that they live or work in an overseas country and that they will arrange to have the car picked up by their "agent" and get it shipped overseas to them.
They will offer to send you a bank cheque, which for some reason (and that reason will vary) is more than the asking price of your vehicle, and they want you to then bank that cheque and then send them a refund for the excess amount that was on the cheque. Considering cheques don't clear for a few days, this would seem an extraordinary high risk to take to send money to their "agent" without having actually received any of the money from the "buyer".
Once that has been done, you receive another email after a day or two saying that their "client" has changed their mind about purchasing your car, and they want their money back. Fair enough, they've messed you around, but you send them the remainder of their money (if you had enough in the bank account to cover it).
Your bank calls you a couple of days to a couple of weeks later and tells you that the cheque you were sent is fake and not even worth the paper its printed on. The money you sent to the "buyer" or their "agent" is now completely gone and you will have no recourse, because they have emailed you from a fake email account, with a fake name, and cannot be located.
The remaining problem is that you still have the car, and you're now considerably out of pocket.
In summary, the details of this scam may vary, but the basic details of the scam is always the same. A foreign buyer, acting on behalf of their "client". They want to buy your car sight unseen, for the full price. They tend to use poor English with spelling mistakes all over the place, a fake cheque for more than the asking price, and they want you to then refund them the extra amount.
It seems a pretty simple scam to fall prey to, but people have, and more than likely, people will continue to be.