Don’t get scammed by fake car buyers
Attention car sellers:
A common scam by phony used-car buyers can leave you with you with an empty bank account or PayPal account — or a large credit card balance.
The newest version of this scam: The “buyer” offers to buy your car sight unseen at your full asking price, or more, and wants your bank account number or PayPal email to send you money for your car. They have an excuse for not being able to talk to you any way but by email — no telephone.
Sounds safe enough, but a “problem” develops (so says the scammer) with your bank or PayPal “not releasing the funds”. You are instructed to go to a FAKE PayPal, eBay, or bank web site that looks legitimate but in fact asks you for your account info, including password. If you do it, your account will soon be cleaned out — and you still have your car.
Another version of this scam instructs the innocent buyer to send money via Western Union to a “shipping agent” in a foreign country. The scammer promises to reimburse you the money in the “PayPal” deposit to your account.
A more common version of the scam that has victimized many used-car sellers is one in which the proposed buyer usually claims to be from overseas, or “temporarily out of the country”, and is eager to buy the advertised car, sight unseen, for the full asking price – no haggling – and sends some “extra” money that must be returned to him.After some complicated email exchanges with the “buyer,” the victim ends up with a worthless cashiers check or money order, a depleted bank account, and is still stuck with the car.
[ if you are a car buyer, looking for a car online, here is another scam — Car Seller Scam — you should know about ]
How to spot a car buyer scam
It’s a scam that is easy to spot when you know what to look for, because the pattern is always the same, although some of the details may vary.
How does it work?
You advertise your used car for sale in a newspaper classified ad, on Craigslist, or on an “auto trader” website. Your car may be one that is in less-than-perfect condition and has high mileage such that it may be difficult to find a buyer. You are anxious to sell.
You are contacted by an interested “buyer” who wants your car and is willing to pay your price — without seeing or examining the car. He might tell you that he lives/works in Africa (or other distant location) or is in the military and that he will arrange to have the car picked up from you by his “agent” and shipped to him. He may say that he’s in the U.S. and represents someone in another country, although his use of the English language is poor. He may also use poor grammar. He offers to send you a U.S. certified cashier’s check or bank check right away.
In one variation of this scam, particularly outside the U.S., the “buyer” requests that you send money for a “tax” before he can send your check. Wave goodbye to your “tax” payment.
Different versions of the same scam
In a newer version of this scam the “buyer” requests your bank account number or PayPal email (to send you the money for the car) but then discovers a “problem” and sends you to a FAKE bank or PayPal site to suck you into giving up your account details and password. Wave goodbye to the money in your account.
You receive the cashier’s check but the amount is more than the agreed-on price of the car. The reason that the check is in excess of your asking price is typically explained as a “mistake,” or that the check had already been cut before setting a price, or it is a “refund” check, or that the “extra” money is for “shipping expenses,” or any one of a number of other explanations — all of which are false.
You deposit the perfectly official-looking check at your bank. The bank credits your account for the amount of the check, although the check has not actually cleared yet, and won’t be for at least 10 business days or more — which your “buyer” knows.
Uh-oh! Something’s wrong here.
Meantime, the “buyer” contacts you again and reminds you that he sent you too much money, and requests you to send him or his agent a money order or cashier’s check for the excess amount, which might be a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. You do it, because you are anxious to sell your car.
You withdraw the “excess” money from your bank account (the same account where you deposited the fake “buyer’s” cashier’s check) to send to him or his “agent.”
A day or so later, after you have already sent part of the money, the “buyer” may contact you again and may inform you that he (or his client) has changed his mind about purchasing your car, and asks you to send him the rest of the money. You do it. You withdraw more money from your bank account.
Now it gets worse, much worse.
Your bank calls you a few days later and informs you that the cashier’s check from the buyer is counterfeit and is totally worthless. They debit your account for the full amount of the check — removing possibly everything from your account, plus some.
The bank now wants you to make good on the checks you’ve written from your account that you sent to the “buyer” or his “agent.” Whatever money of your own that was originally in your account is now gone. Your bank wants you to pay them the rest of the missing money. The bank claims no responsibility in the matter. Your funds are not guaranteed under banking regulations. This is not considered a bank “mistake.”
You’re out of luck.
You still have your used car but you now owe your bank a substantial amount of money. The bank has no sympathy for you and offers no help. You have no legal rights.
The “buyer” (scammer) was using a bogus name and can’t be located. There is no one to sue or prosecute. These are professional criminals who know how to disappear and pop up again somewhere else. Law enforcement agencies are helpless to act.
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. It happens to real people every day. Although this scam has been around for a few years, there are still many people who haven’t heard about it. We’re trying to help in that regard.
The bottom line
The details on this scam may vary, but the basic scheme is always the same:
“Buyer” wants to buy your car without seeing it or driving it (always an interesting story to go with the offer)
“Buyer” is often a “woman” to make deal seem more legitimate
“Buyer” uses poor English and bad spelling
“Buyer” only communicates by email (usually a Gmail or Yahoo account), never by telephone ( ask “Buyer” for his telephone number and see how quickly he/she disappears — or gives you an excuse for not being able to give number)
“Buyer” can’t pick up car — claims he will send “agent” or shipping company to pick up car (never happens)
“Buyer” assures you that everything is “safe” because he uses PayPal, eBay, Amazon, or bank certified check
“Buyer” sends fake cashier’s check for more than the asking price, followed by a request for refund or forwarding of some or all of the money before the check clears the bank.
“Buyer” wants your bank account number or PayPal email, and later wants your passwords (through a fake bank or PayPal web site) to clean out your account and charge your associated credit card
Don’t get caught in this SCAM. Many people have. If you are selling a used car and a buyer claims to want your car, sight unseen, for your full asking price, with some complicated scheme for payment that involves you sending money to someone else, or giving up your PayPal password, then the chances of this being a scam are about 99.999999999%.