How to Spot a Scam

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Craigslist Car Scam

Buying and selling cars on Craigslist can be a huge money-saver for both parties. Both can expect to make or save more than if they had gone to a dealership. This makes the Auto category in Craigslist's For Sale section very active, especially in urban areas. With so many people exchanging so many cars for so much cash, it was only a matter of time before the criminal element took notice. Fraudulent postings are now a common occurrence. The crudest attempts are easily ignored, but some schemes can be more complex. Some scams are operated by clever, experienced con men that have an answer for everything.

Stolen checks, counterfeit checks and bounced checks are costing people money, cars or both. In one common scam, the buyer accidently pays more by money order or cashier's check than was asked for and asks you to refund them the overage. If you send them the money before the money order clears the bank, you are braver than you are smart. These money orders often turn out to be counterfeits and any money sent them is lost forever.

Buying and selling cars can be done safely, but these are big ticket items and many sellers have reported at least one suspicious response to a posting. I'm so used to them now, that I'd feel insulted if I posted something for sale and never received my free scam attempt.
  • To help you identify suspicious buyers or sellers, we've put together a list of a few of the warning signs.
  • Cars are priced far below current market value.
  • The seller claims to be in the military and is stationed overseas.
  • The posting does not include a phone number.
  • The seller will demand that you use an online escrow service of their choice.
  • The person receiving the call is referred to as a "pickup agent."
  • Payment must be wired to or from another country. Western Union is often requested.
  • The buyer or seller is very anxious to conclude the transaction.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

1 comment:

Hucky Duck said...

It's too bad there's so many scammers on CL now. I sold my car on there about a year ago, and literally, by the time I posted it, and by the time I had the cash in my hand, it was within one hour... The guy asked like absolutely no questions.. it was weird. I kept thinking the cash was counterfeit or something, but no problems... anyways, my point is, I know lots of people that won't buy a car on CL because of all the scam stories they hear, which sucks if you are legitimately selling a car.