Used Car Deals and Scams

used car scamsOn this web site, we normally talk about new-car deals but, for people with limited budgets, a used car may be the way to go.

However, finding great deals on used cars is not quite as easy as for new cars. It’s not that the deals aren’t out there; it’s that there are many more factors to consider when pricing and evaluating used car deals. There’s the car’s age, its mileage, its condition, whether it’s been wrecked in the past, how it’s been driven and maintained, its “book” value — and whether the deal is a scam. These are all things that don’t come into play when buying a brand new car.

We discuss the topic of buying used cars and getting the best deals in our sister web sites, and where you can find much more detail about the topic.

In this article we want to focus on a common problem that faces people who find and buy used cars online at sites such as Craigslist, Autotrader, or any other online “cars for sale” web site. It’s a scam that separates unsuspecting car buyers from their money, and provides no car. This car scam has been around for years but manages to “catch” thousands of people each year.

Here’s how the scam works

You’re searching online on Craigslist (or other car web site) and find a relatively new car with an almost unbelievable low price. The photo of the car shows it to be beautiful. The description says it’s in almost perfect condition.

You are excited to have discovered such a great deal and contact the buyer via his email (always an email address, never a telephone number). You then receive a response much like the following actual email:


The car it’s still available, has 67,971  miles,automatic transmission. It’s in perfect condition, no engine problems(3.5L 6 Cylinder Gasoline Fuel), no accidents/liens/loans. Exterior no scratches, never been repainted, interior no rips/tears/stains, never smoked inside.I have all the car’s manuals, 2 spare of keys, clean title, documents. This 2003 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE was my son’s car, he loved it very much, but he didn’t enjoy it…He died in a bike accident 9 months ago and now…I don’t need it anymore. It brings very bad memories to me and I want to get rid of it….The price is $1,921.00
Me and my husband travel a lot with our business and we want to make this deal through eBay’s Vehicle Purchase Protection Program. I just need your full name, full shipping address, along with your home/cell # so I can open a case (with no further obligation or fees). eBay will contact you with all the Transaction/shipping details you will need.
We hope to hear soon from you.

For more pictures copy or click the following link:

May God Bless you every day,
Mary Ball

P.S: Here’s the VIN # 1N4BL11DX3C110618 so you can run a CARFAX Report just to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying!!!

It’s a very sad story and sounds very real, but it is a complete and total lie — a common car scam.

So, what’s wrong with this deal?

First, the “seller” is not Mary Ball, and most likely not even a woman. It’s a scammer who is typically in Eastern Europe, but you can’t tell that by the email address.

Second, the car is real, the VIN number is real, and the Carfax report would be for a real car — but the car doesn’t belong to the “seller.” In fact, he copied the car’s photo and VIN somewhere on the Internet. He’s pretending that he’s the owner of the car.

Third, the “seller” claims that they often travel on business and, on a subsequent email, will reveal that they and the car are not in the same location, and the car will be shipped to you at no cost — and that you’ll have a few days to inspect the car. If you don’t want to keep it, you can ship it back at their cost. In some cases, the “seller” claims to be overseas in the military, on business, on an off-shore oil rig, or any place they can’t be contacted in any way except email — never a physical address or telephone number.

Finally, they claim to have some way of “protecting” your money, such as Amazon, PayPal, or other. In the example above, they claim to use eBay’s “Buyer Protection Plan.” Although eBay has such a plan, it only applies to purchases made directly on the eBay web site. If you fall for the scam, you will be sent to a web site that looks exactly like eBay’s site, with all the right logos and graphic design (all snagged from the real site) but is fake. You will be directed to wire money to a Western Union account that sends your money directly to the scammer, not to a service  — but there’s no way for you to know that.

After you’ve wired your money, you’re done. You will never see your money again, you won’t receive a car, and the scammer is long gone. There’s nothing you can do. The scammer is in another country. He has erased his temporary email address. He can’t be located or prosecuted.

In summary, it’s always a good idea to only buy local cars so that you can meet the seller, look over the car’s title, inspect the car, test-drive it, and conduct the transaction face-to-face. If you find an online deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is.


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