Car Shopping? Don’t Fall For This Online Scam

Shoppers, watch out when browsing online for a used car. Con artists are using fake photos and scam websites to entice buyers into purchasing cars that don’t exist.

How the Scam Works:   car steering wheel 150x150 Car Shopping? Dont Fall For This Online Scam

You are shopping for car and check out listings online.  You spot an ad for the car you want, and it’s $1,000 cheaper than what you’ve seen elsewhere. It’s a great deal! The post doesn’t have a photo, so you contact the seller and ask him/her to email you some images. The seller is happy to oblige.

You open the email, look at the photos and click on a link in the message. You are now looking at a scam website. It’s a reproduction of the original website where you saw the car ad… with one big difference. Con artists control every aspect of it, from the “Live Chat Support” to the recommended escrow service. Typically, you get to the website by following the link in the email. But more recently, scammers are sending malware programs embedded in the photo files, which cause your browser to redirect to the scam site.

Scammers make money off this elaborate ruse when you buy the car and use the fake escrow service recommended on the website. You expect that the escrow service will hold your payment until you receive your new vehicle. In reality, the scammers can access the funds immediately and will stop responding to you. You will be out the money and the car.

How to Spot a Car Sales Scam: 

Buying a car online can be a way to get a great deal on your next vehicle. Follow these tips to ensure your purchase ends with a new set of wheels, not a scam:

  • If the price seems to good to be true, there’s probably something wrong. Be wary if the car’s price is significantly lower than what you’ve seen elsewhere.  
  • Beware of sellers who want to conclude a transaction as quickly as possible. Scammers want to get your money before you have time to think or have a professional examine the deal.
  • Watch out for sellers who want you to wire money instead of use a check or credit card.
  • Call the seller to establish phone contact. If he/she neglects details agreed to via e-mail or is unable to answer questions about their location, it is likely to be a scam.
  • Make sure websites are secure and authenticated before you purchase an item online. Look for “https” before the web address and online seals that ensure your credit card and/or banking information is secure.
  • Use only well-known escrow services. As mentioned above, some fake car dealer websites use escrow services controlled by scammers.

For More Information

For more details about the car shopping scam, read full the FBI scam alert here.

To find out more about scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper.

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About Emily Patterson