Now more than ever, scammers are using the internet to profit off unsuspecting car buyers and sellers. Scammers have developed new strategies that now extend far beyond providing fake cash when meeting to purchase a vehicle. It’s now all about checks and money transfers.
Scammers now have the means to print counterfeit checks that are virtually undetectable. When a seller accepts a cashier’s check, it’s not unusual to have the check bounce when submitted to their bank. This indicates that the check was likely fake or stolen; leaving you with no immediate path of recovering the vehicle. You essentially just sold your car to a scammer for free.
Or conversely, you could be purchasing a stolen vehicle that appears to have all the proper paperwork.
But never fear. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, here’s a few tips that you can use to avoid scammers like these patrolling the internet.
First, be cautious with any online car posting and do your research on the vehicle. Get the VIN number and check its title and accident history via a reputable service such as CarFax. If the price is far below Blue Book and the deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Be wary of communication taking place solely through email. If the seller does not have a phone number listed and they are not open to speaking over the phone, then move on.
Before completing the online car purchase, the single most important tip to remember is that you should always meet the seller or buyer in person to inspect the vehicle. You should never pay for a product you and your mechanic have not inspected and are satisfied with. If the seller appears overly anxious to conclude the transaction, chances are they want your money without leaving time for suspicion to grow.
As the seller, never accept payment until the vehicle has been inspected and accepted by the buyer, and the amount and form of payment meets everyone’s expectations.
There have been many cases of sellers claiming to be in the military and stationed overseas and request you pay through an online escrow service or by wiring money to another country via services such as Western Union or PayPal. But never agree to this sort of arrangement, as you leave yourself vulnerable to being scammed.
Important: Whether you’re the buyer or the seller and no matter the form of payment, always complete the transaction at a bank. If a seller or buyer truly has nothing to hide, they should have no qualms with handling the monetary aspect at a bank. If the buyer is paying with cash, the teller can authenticate each bill. If the payment is with a cashier’s check or money order, the bank can run the check to verify funds.
Finally, never release your vehicle to the buyer or accept the car from the seller until the funds have cleared without a hitch. Only then do you transfer the proper DMV paperwork and title.