Here are some tips for both buyers and sellers to help recognize potential fraud attempts. Most buyers and sellers are not scammers, but when dealing over the internet with someone you’ve never met before, a little common sense and double checking will go a long way to avoid becoming the victim of a scam.
Fraud Prevention Tips for Buyers
Scammers often try to post fraudulent For Sale ads in order to steal a deposit from unsuspecting buyers. At Old Car Online we catch most of these attempts before they are actually posted. If you suspect an ad on our site may be a scam, please contact us. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Very Low Price – if the seller’s asking price seems to good to be true, it probably is.
- Out of Country – be very cautious if the seller claims to be in another country. Scammers often use this, combined with other fictitious personal circumstances, as an explanation for the low price on their ad.
- Wrong Phone Number – scammers prefer to communicate by email only, and often provide an incorrect phone number or no phone number at all on their ad. If the wrong phone number is posted and the seller won’t provide a working number, avoid the deal.
- Request For Your Personal Information – inappropriate requests for your personal or financial information are definitely a warning sign, especially when requested early in the process.
- Phony Escrow Companies – take extreme caution here. Scammers can easily create websites that look like legitimate escrow companies but are really just a front to try and get a deposit from you. Using a third party facilitator for long distance transactions is a good practice, but only use those that you already know and trust. We recommend Escrow.com.
- Old Car Online as a Third Party – Old Car Online does NOT provide escrow, take deposits, issue refunds or warehouse seller’s items. Old Car Online provides ad listings only, and is never involved in the actual sale of an item.
- Wire Transfer – scammers will often request a deposit by wire transfer because it’s fast and once they have the money, it’s gone. Do not send a deposit by wire or money transfer. The only truly safe way to pay online for a vehicle you’ve never physically seen is to use a service like Escrow.com
- Email Address in Ad Description – some sellers post their email address in their ad description. While this does not necessarily indicate a scam, we strongly recommend clicking on the "Contact Seller" button in the ad and sending your email message through our system as an extra precaution.
Fraud Prevention Tips for Sellers
Sellers must also take precautions to avoid scams. Emails sent through our system are screened for potential fraud, and we do catch almost all scam emails before they’re sent to sellers. We recommend that sellers only provide an email address in the dedicated email address field under Contact Information – for your own privacy DO NOT type your email address in the vehicle description area. When contacted, sellers should watch for the following:
- Buyer Requests an Inspection – one scam involves a potential buyer requesting that the seller pay for a mechanical/technical inspection of the vehicle prior to purchase. The buyer then suggests a particular inspection company they prefer to use. After payment is sent, the buyer and inspection company are never heard from again.
Do not pay for an inspection of your vehicle at a buyer’s request. If an inspection is requested, the buyer should pay for it. If you do decide to pay for an inspection, never use a service recommended by the buyer.
* Perpetrators of this scam may claim to represent Helping Hands Ministry, Easy Go Auto, or Your Auto Brokers, and may even direct you to a website that looks legitimate but is really just part of the scam. If someone representing any of these organizations contacts you and requests an inspection of your vehicle at your expense prior to sale, tell them you are not interested and hang up immediately.
- Out of Country – be extemely cautious if the buyer claims to be in another country. This is the most common set up for a scam.
- Buyer Has an “Agent” – scammers may claim to have an “agent” or “shipping agent” who is to arrange for the transport of the item, which usually ties into the next warning...
- Buyer Sends Extra Funds – do not accept payment for MORE than the selling price of the item. The scammer will request that you forward the extra amount to their "agent" after depositing a cashier’s check in your bank account. Of course, you’re really just sending money back to the scammer.
- Cashier’s Checks – avoid accepting payment by cashier’s check, or at least talk to your bank about the issue first. Although your bank may accept the deposit, it may take 30 days for the check to clear. If it fails to clear the buyer may already be long gone with your item, or if you had sent money to the buyer’s "agent" as above, you’ll be out for whatever amount you sent. Here is the FDIC warning on this issue, and an alert from the FTC.
- Buyer is Representing a Client – this is another set up for a potential scam, similar to the “agent” scam listed above but in this case the scammer is claiming to be the agent for a buyer.
- Request For Your Personal Information – as mentioned in the above tips for buyers, early requests for your personal or banking information should arouse suspicion.
- Phony Escrow Companies – also mentioned in the buyer’s tips above. We do recommend using a legal third party facilitator for long distance transactions, but only use those that you already know and trust. Again, we recommend Escrow.com.
- Emails Only – be very skeptical of anyone who will only communicate by email. Scammers usually (but not always) tend to avoid telephone conversations. They also typically use free email accounts from providers like Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, AOL and others.