Sunday, November 15, 2009

To buy a car over the internet - Craigslist and EBAY

I recently encountered a scam as I set out to find a bargain on Craig's List. We all have heard that there are scams and we all hear there are bargains out there. To determine the difference, we have to research the "bargains". Generally, if it sounds too good to be true, then it is.

Here is the scam. Someone advertises a car for sale on EBAY. They have taken all measures to legitimately sell their car electronically. There are services available to do just about anything you want. One thing a seller does is to take plenty of photos. Another is to list the vin# or provide it to the potential buyer on request.

The scamer captures the photographs and the VIN# from the EBAY seller, then advertises that the car is his car to sell. He does this to see if someone is in dire need of a great bargain. The car is priced to get rid of it in a hurry to speed up the process. There is a good excuse to sell it, mostly because the person is going overseas in a few days, or it is property from a divorce. The scamer needs money from the sale quickly so she (that seems to work better for a scamer. A female is trusted more). The scamer then says that she will either use a service of EBAY where a seller can use another means of actually making a sale (Craig's List), or  she will ask for money upfront through Western Union or some other means. He will tell the buyer that the transaction is risk free, because EBAY will refund your money after 5-10 days if you do not like the automobile you have purchased. The transaction will of course look like it is official from EBAY with logos and everything, but it will not be EBAY. In fact it is probably someone from out of country. 

To be cautious and diligent, you as a consumer might go and purchase a report or several reports from a  third party such as Carfax. The report on the vin# will show excellent information including that the automobile is for sale! The scam is well thought out. The next day, you get to follow their process, which includes completing a transaction with a guarantee that you have 5-10 days to try the car and if disatisfied, you can tell the financial company that you reject the purchase and you will be refunded. Of course, after sending in the $5000 or so, there is no way to track the person, email address or anything else. Your money is gone. The car was never theirs to begin with, so you have just fallen for a crafty scam.

Fortunately I chased this for a few hours and uncovered the scam from searching on internet and my family had caught onto it as well, so I was getting advice from them. What is strange is that these people are allowed to operate. Craig's list is free and unmonitored, so you get what you pay for when using that service. People have been known to find bargains there, but perhaps as many as 2 out of 3 car transactions might very well be scams.  I knew there was something awry when the person on the other end could not or would not answer my specific questions. 

Advice? If you are compelled to use that means or EBAY, make sure you have a telephone number, not an email address. Deal directly with the person. and never buy anything from an individual without touching it. 

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