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Posted: 1:56 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, 2011

New scam warning for online car buyers

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RIP-OFF ALERT: A bogus eBay buyer protection program is being invoked by criminals pretending to sell cars on Craigslist. The FBI has put out a warning that close to 15,000 people they know of have been conned or nearly conned by this scam that has come up on my show a dozen times or more.

Here's how this one plays out: Buyers are looking for cars on Craigslist and find a deal that they're just salivating over. The crooks then steer interested buyers to a fake spoof site that purports to be a protection program through eBay. Once they pay money, the buyer disappears (not that they were ever really there in the first place) and you later learn there is no such car for sale.

Craigslist is not at fault here. Plenty of legitimate transactions take place on Craigslist every day. But to quell the uproar from burned consumers, Craigslist has put up a new section that you're required to view before you can see any for sale ads in the cars section. I think it bears repeating.

How to recognize a vehicle scam attempt on Craigslist:

  • Shipping a vehicle to you is suggested by seller
  • eBay Motors or another intermediary is specified by seller
  • Payment by Western Union or a money wire is requested
  • Price is unusually low (fraction of Blue Book value)


Remember, when you are buying, eyeballs help. By that I mean you want to see the car in person, drive it in person and take it to an independent mechanic for inspection in person as a condition of purchase.

One final note: Be careful about a glut of flood vehicles hitting the resale market over the next 90 days. In the wake of Hurricane Irene, they will show up with washed titles purporting to be unblemished cars. That's why it's more important than ever to have a used vehicle checked before you buy it.

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