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How to avoid online car buying scams Advertiser Disclosure Advertiser Disclosure We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our aim is to assist you make smarter financial decisions by offering you interactive tools and financial calculators, publishing original and objective content. This allows you to conduct research and compare information at no cost – so that you can make financial decisions with confidence. Bankrate has agreements with issuers, including but not limited to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover. How We Earn Money The deals that are displayed on this site come from companies that pay us. This compensation can affect the way and where products appear on this website, for example such things as the sequence in which they appear in the listing categories, except where prohibited by law. This applies to our mortgage home equity, mortgage and other home loan products. This compensation, however, does affect the content we publish or the reviews that you see on this site. We do not include the universe of companies or financial deals that could be available to you.


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5 min read Published October 13, 2022

Written by Rebecca Betterton Written by Auto Loans Reporter

Rebecca Betterton is the auto loans reporter for Bankrate. She is a specialist in helping readers to navigate the ins and outs of securely taking out loans to purchase an automobile.

Editor: Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor

Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate since the end of 2021. They are passionate about helping readers gain the confidence to manage their finances with concise, well-studied and well-researched content that break down complex topics into manageable bites.

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Making a purchase from the comfort of your living room just a couple of clicks has its perks but also comes with some risk. Similar to the rest of the internet there are scams that have slipped into the realm of. Be aware of common cons to avoid losing money while shopping for an automobile. Most common scams when buying a car online These are the scams FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has for online car sales –but there are some common scams to look out for when . Identity theft Scammers are not only looking to con you out of funds, but also for your personal details. They may ask for information such as the details of your Social Security number, birthdate or bank account numbers. Don’t share your personal information with potential buyers, excluding your name and number. If you are applying for a job an opportunity, ensure that the seller is authentic, licensed and has a good reputation. In other cases, it might be preferential to make an application outside of the dealership -or visit a place where you can confirm whether the vendor is honest and trustworthy. Fake ads When you are searching for a private sale there are advertisements that don’t include the VIN or the number that identifies the vehicle. If you are not able to confirm that the vehicle exists — as in you can see it in person and verify that the VIN is accurate do not send any money. It’s not unusual for scammers to show vehicles in advertisements without actually having the vehicle. And even if the vehicle exists, make sure it is not listed as stolen and that it is clean on its history report. Curbstoning This scam is when a dealer pretends to be private sellers with the intention of selling an unconformity-related vehicle with the normal regulations of dealers that is, it may have an unsalvaged title or is damaged. A salvaged title can create major problems when it comes to insuring the vehicle. It is possible to avoid this fraud by staying away from cars that are sold online on vacant lot, on the side of the road or at the seller’s home. As with every private auction, ensure you confirm whether the seller and VIN are legitimate prior to signing a contract. If you are buying a car sight-unseen, never agree to buy a car without seeing it. It is not only advisable to take the car you are considering to a test drive , but buying sight unseen can mean the car might not look like the pictures or even exist in the first place. If the seller pressures you or entices you to complete a fast sale before you can view the car in person, it is likely a fraud. Ask for wire transfers or credit card gift cards If the prospective seller demands a wire transfer for the vehicle payment, walk away. This is a typical tactic that scammers use to take your money , but with no vehicle in return. The money you wired isn’t traceable and extremely difficult to trace. This means you could end up with no vehicle and no chance of a reimbursement. Similar to scammers that want to make payments via wire transfer, a few sellers will ask for gifts cards in exchange for payment. Again, walk away. Gift cards are not traceable and indicate that the seller may be trying to fraud you. Title washing washing is a method to hide damage from the wreck or other problems with the car’s history. Even if you have to pay for it yourself, always get a vehicle history report for the VIN. It’s not sure if it will provide you with all the details the car has gone through but it can aid you in not falling victim to scammers looking to offload an unsafe vehicle. Fake escrow account Although this scam can go both ways, it is important to be aware of the use of fraudulent escrow accounts when you purchase a vehicle online. Using an escrow account is legitimate method to keep both parties protected from fraud. However, scammers may use fraudulent escrow accounts to trick you into depositing funds directly into the seller’s account. When it’s time to collect the car and to transfer the title the seller isn’t accessible to contact and you’re without a way to recover your money. Are online car purchases an excellent idea? If you choose to use an authentic service, buying a car on the internet is just as safe as the dealership. If you choose to go with a private seller, do not be a victim of scams happening discourage you. Being a well-informed consumer, you will more likely not be scammed and more likely to leave content with your purchase. Benefits of online car buying If you know the types of are the most common scams and go through a legitimate source, buying a car online is a good idea for many reasons. Primarily, it saves time. You don’t have to go to multiple dealerships and deal with physically searching inventory on many. Shopping online gives you endless shopping opportunities. As you’re not limited to the selection in a store and you can be sure to find a better suitable match to your needs. There’s no pressure to sell — at the end of the day, you’ll be browsing through websites via your computer or phone without having to deal with professional salespeople. If you decide to purchase something similar to Carvana or Vroom You’ll have access to nationwide delivery. There could be a modest cost, but if you get the right car it could be worth it. The drawbacks of buying a car online Aside from scams, there are a couple of reasons why people prefer traditional dealers. Large online dealers don’t mean that there is no negotiation. It is possible to bargain with a private seller, though you will run the risk of being victimized by an enigma. The lenders may not be able to offer financing for private sales when you search online. If they do, you could find that the rates are higher than with a new or used vehicle loan. You may not be able perform an in-person inspection until after you talk to the seller or have the car delivered. Also, it could be harder for a mechanic to check it when you shop on the internet. What to do if you’ve been victimized If you believe you have fallen victim to an online fraud, there are a few steps you should take. You can file a complaint directly with Fraud Center. Contact your state attorney general. Make a report to the FBI’s . Inform the FBI of the . It may become difficult, or even impossible, to obtain your cash back if you made it via wire transfer or exchanged gift cards. Be aware of the transactions you made with your bank if you entered any information on an illegitimate website. If you notice any transactions, inform your bank about the fraud and reset any usernames or passwords connected to the account. The bottom line: If you think a deal on a car is too amazing to be real It’s probably true. A car purchase online can be a safe method to purchase a second-hand car. However, you must be aware of frauds that are common and trust your gut. If you notice something that seems suspicious then it’s probably. At the end of the day, there’s plenty of used cars on the market. It is possible to leave a deal and find another, more legitimate seller on trustworthy websites, or simply go to a used car dealership. Find out more


Authored by Auto Loans Reporter

Rebecca Betterton is the auto loans reporter for Bankrate. She has a specialization in helping readers to navigate the ways and pitfalls of using loans to buy a car.

The edit was done by Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor

Rhys has been editing and writing for Bankrate since the end of 2021. They are passionate about helping readers gain confidence to take control of their finances with concise, well-researched, and clear data that cuts otherwise complex subjects into digestible pieces.

Auto loans editor

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