Fraud artists still running used car scams

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Be wary, as there are still a lot of used car scams online. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

There are a bevy of rip-off artists operating everywhere, in every nation and in every state, at every moment. Naturally, this extends to the buying and selling of cars, so consumers should always be vigilant of used car scams.

Number of used car scams trending upward

No matter what commodity might be involved, the presence of money means that a number of criminals are going to show up, trying to swindle whoever falls for their scam. Crooks are usually a minority, except for Wall Street and Washington, D.C., where crooks are the rule, rather than the exception.

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One common scam is used car scams, according to USA Today, especially online car scams. The internet is the most common place where these swindles are turning up, as a prodigious number of Craigslist car scams and eBay car scams have been reported. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, part of the Department of Justice, reported 4,066 instances of a used car scam on the web in 2011, and victims lost an estimated $8.3 million. There were 14,000 similar complaints to the ICCC between 2008 and 2010, according to the Chicago Tribune.

This year, the ICCC registered 1,685 complaints of used car scams by the end of July, costing victims an estimated $4.9 million.

Where there is internets there is spam

An online car buying scam is a bit different than a used car scam by a shady dealer. From lots in Miami, Fla., to car dealers in Everett, Wa, most dealers are perfectly honest; however,  some use some rather shady tricks, from using yo-yo scams to extort more money upfront by claiming the “the auto approval fell through” or selling a complete lemon or a previously wrecked car.

Online scams are a bit different, however. After all, a car bought from a shady dealer still exists. Online scams often are where a person sees an ad for a car online and then responds that they’d like to buy it. After sending the money, the car never shows up.

Watch for red flags

A common device in used car scams is that “sellers” post some terrible story about why they’re selling the car. Divorces, according to USA Today, are often used. Military deployments are too, according to Daily Finance, and other sob-stories. The idea is to emotionally manipulate the buyer. Anyone trying to rush that large a transaction, including dealerships, is trying to pull a fast one. says to watch for prices that are too good to be true, but be careful, as, according to USA Today, scam artists will quote prices that are very low, but not outlandishly so. Late-model luxury car models are commonly used in scams, according to Daily Finance.

Another common red flag is for a “seller asking for the money to be wired via Western Union or if the seller asks for the money to be put on a prepaid debit card. Anyone who can’t be bothered to offer a test drive or to meet with a buyer is also likely running a scam. Do not respond to emails saying how you’ve just won a free car in an auction.


USA Today

Chicago Tribune

Daily Finance


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