Sunday, November 22, 2009

Avoiding Fraud When Buying a Car Online

This past week, my wife and I have been searching for her a vehicle. I buy used all the time, so we were searching several sites like,, Ebay, Etc. Well, I came across a deal that seemed too good to be true so I was very curious about it. I decided that my best bet was to contact a local dealer friend and have him handle the deal for me. I always like dealing with a local dealer because, he has tools at his disposal to make sure I'm not getting scammed.

Well, after we contacted the seller, he responded with the attached email. My suspicions were confirmed when I realized that he didn't want to do this deal in person and wanted to have MSN Autos Escrow department. Luckily, I've been in the business long enough to spot the scam, and my dealer friend confirmed it for me, but I thought it would be helpful to pass this information along to anyone else who is interested.

How to know an online deal is a scam:
1. If the deal is too good to be true, It Probably is (Doesn't mean it is a scam, but be very careful)
2. The individual doesn't want to have any phone conversations, only email or chat.
3. The individual won't provide you with a copy of the title before the deal.
4. In my case, the car was listed in Franklinton, LA, but when the owner contacted me he said the vehicle was in Surprise, AZ.
5. If the seller wants to use an escrow service (NOTE: There are some legitimate escrow servies out there. You should do your research before you agree to use one. Don't rely on a link the person sends you, in my case, he sent me a link that had MSN Autos in the URL, but the URL wasn't actually associated with MSN. If you haven't heard of the Service, and can't find somoene that has, the don't use them.)
6. If the seller offers to ship a vehicle for free without any haggeling.
7. If a buyer offers to send you a check for more than your car is worth! (BIGGIE)

How to Avoid a Scam:
1. Find a local dealer to help you work the deal. You can usually get one to do this for $250-$500. It's a little extra to pay, but it could save you $1,000's of dollars.
2. Speak with the person on the phone, don't try to do the whole deal over email.
3. If there's any feed back opportunities on the website your looking at make sure others have had positive experiences.
4. If you receive an email that seems suspicious, Google it. That's how I discovered this guy was trying to scam me. Most of these guys aren't smart enough to change their email, they just send out the same one every time and wait for someone who's so excited about getting a good deal that they forget logic.
5. Check, and Google for the name and phone number of the person you're dealing with. I've used the reverse phone tool on Whitepages for many different things, but mainly to confirm who I'm dealing with and where they are located.

These are just some suggestions, but it could save you a lot of money if you at least consider a few of these things before you send your money to someone you don't know.

Rob Zehentner

Here is the Email I received from the seller I contacted.

Hi Rob,The car is still for sale. The asking price is $20,100. It is located in Surprise, AZ and the VIN is 1GKER337X7J100816. The car is registered on my name and the title is clear (no lien). It is in great condition, no dents or scratches. It was always garaged and the regular maintenance was done in time. It wasn't involved in any accident and has never suffered any kind of damage. Also this is a non-smoker car. If you have any questions regarding the car or you want extra photos or the CARFAX report (for free) just let me know!I'm a pilot on cargo flights. My wife broke up with me recently because I'm always away from home. We just sold our house and split the money. This is the last thing I need to sell and split the money with her.Because I'm away most of the time I will not be able to deal in person. But I've already arranged the shipping and the title transfer anywhere in the US. I will pay the shipping fees.I want the payment to be handled by MSN Autos. They will keep the money until you will receive and inspect the car. You will have 7 days of inspection period. If the car is not like described you will have to ship it back on my expense and they will give you a full refund. This way, you will be able to inspect the vehicle before committing to buy it and I know that you have the money and you aren't just fooling around.Giving the nature of this transaction please note that my sale terms are final and nonnegotiable. In order to move forward I will need your full name, address and phone number.I don't want to offend you, but the car is priced for a fast sale so please if you intend to apply for a loan or financing do not reply to this message!Chris Larsen

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