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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 better financial decisions by providing you with interactive tools and financial calculators as well as publishing unique and impartial content, by enabling you to conduct research and compare data for free to help you make sound financial decisions. 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 compensate us. This compensation could affect how and when products are featured on this website, for example, for example, the sequence in which they appear in the listing categories and other categories, unless prohibited by law for our mortgage home equity, mortgage and other products for home loans. This compensation, however, does not influence the information we publish, or the reviews you read on this site. We do not include the entire universe of businesses or financial deals that could be open 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 has a specialization in helping readers with the ways and pitfalls of taking out loans to purchase the car they want.

Editor: Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor

Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate since late 2021. They are passionate about helping readers gain confidence to control their finances by providing concise, well-studied and well-researched content that breaks down otherwise complex topics into manageable bites.

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Buying a car online from the comfort of your living room just a couple of clicks is a great option however, it comes with some risks. Like the majority of the world of online, scams have crept into the realm of. Beware of common scams to ensure you don’t make a loss while shopping for a new vehicle. The most common online scams for buying cars There are a few scams that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) provides guidelines for online vehicle sales, but there are a few typical scams to watch out for when . Identity theft Some scammers are not only looking to con you out of funds, but also to collect your personal data. They’ll ask for details such as you Social Security number, birthdate or banking number. Never share any personal information with prospective sellers, other than your name and telephone number. If you are applying for a job the position, make sure it’s licensed, legitimate and has good reviews. If not, it’s more beneficial to apply outside the dealershipor go to a location where you can confirm that the seller is legitimate. Fake ads When you are looking for a private sale, you may see advertisements that don’t include the VIN, or the number that identifies the vehicle. If you’re not able to confirm that the vehicle is actually present — that is, seeing it personally and be sure it’s VIN is valid do not send any money. It’s not uncommon for scammers to show vehicles in advertisements without having it. Even if the car exists, make sure it is not reported as stolen and it is clean on its history report. The Curbstoning scam occurs when a dealer pretends to be a private seller with the intention of selling the vehicle in violation with normal dealer regulations that is, it may have salvaged titles or has been damaged in any way. A salvaged title could cause major headaches when it comes to insuring the vehicle. Avoid this fraud by staying away from vehicles sold online from vacant lots, on the side of the road or even at the residence of the seller. As with all private sales, make sure you verify that the seller and VIN are genuine before you sign a contract to purchase. If you are buying a car sight-unseen, never agree to purchase a vehicle without seeing it. It’s not just best to take your potential car for a test drive and purchasing it without seeing it can mean the car might not look like the pictures or even exist in any way. If the seller is quick to sell you the car or asks you to make a speedy deal before you have a chance to inspect the vehicle in person, it is likely a fraud. Demand a wire transfer or credit card gift cards If the potential seller requests an electronic transfer to make the vehicle payment, walk away. This is a common method used by scammers to steal your money and offer no guarantee of a vehicle. Wired money isn’t trackable and is very difficult to retrieve. This means you may end up with no car and no potential reimbursement. Similar to scammers that want to make payments via wire transfer, some sellers will request gifts cards in exchange for payment. Again, walk away. Gift cards are not traceable and mean the seller is likely attempting to make money off you. Title washing washing is an attempt to cover up damage caused by the wreck or other issues with the car’s history. Even if you have to pay for it yourself Always get a vehicle history report on the VIN. This isn’t guaranteed to reveal everything the vehicle has been through but it can assist you in avoiding falling victim to a scammer trying to sell you a dangerous car. Fake escrow account Although this scam can go both ways, you should be aware of the possibility of using a fake escrow account when buying a car online. Escrow accounts are legitimate method to keep both parties safe from fraud. But, scammers could use fraudulent escrow accounts to convince you to deposit money directly into the account of the seller. When it comes time to collect the car and to transfer the title the seller is no longer available to be contacted — and you are stuck with no option to get your money back. Do you think online car purchasing is an excellent idea? If you go through an authentic service, buying a car online can be the same as purchasing a car from a dealership. If you choose to go with a private seller, do not allow the possibility of a scam happening deter you. If you are a savvy buyer you’ll more likely not get scammed and more likely to drive away satisfied with the purchase of your car. Benefits of purchasing a car online If you are aware of the are the most common scams and go through a legitimate source, buying a car online can have its advantages. First, it helps save time. You don’t need to visit several dealerships and have to deal with physically searching inventory on a lot. Buying online means unlimited possibilities for shopping. Because you don’t have to limit yourself to the options in a store it is possible to find a better suitable match to your needs. There’s no sales pressure because, in the end, you’ll be scrolling through websites on your phone or computer, not subjecting yourself to professional salespeople. If you opt for something similar to Carvana or Vroom and you’ll be able to access to delivery across the country. There may be a small cost, but if you find the right car, it might be worth the cost. There are some disadvantages to buying cars online. In addition to scams, there are few reasons people still choose traditional dealers. Big online sources don’t mean that there is no negotiation. You will be able to negotiate with a private seller however, you be at risk of getting involved in an enigma. Lenders may not offer financing for private sales while you’re looking on the internet. If they do, you could be surprised to find the costs are higher than a new or used vehicle loan. You might not be able to conduct an in-person inspection until after you meet with 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 scam There are a few actions you need to take. Make a formal complaint directly to the center for fraud. Contact your state attorney general. Make a report to the FBI’s . Inform the FBI of the . It might be difficult or impossible to get your cash back if you made the money via wire transfer or exchanged gift cards. However, keep track of your bank activity in the event that you have entered information on a fake website. If you see any activities, notify your bank to report the fraud and change any usernames or passwords associated with the account. The bottom line If a car deal sounds too appealing to be true the likelihood is that it is. A car purchase online can be a very safe option to buy a secondhand vehicle. However, you must keep an eye out for typical scams and rely on your gut. If something appears to be off, it probably is. In time’s end, there are plenty of used vehicles on the market. It is possible to leave a deal and locate a different, more legitimate seller on reliable websites or just opt for an used car dealer. Learn more


Written by Auto Loans Reporter

Rebecca Betterton is the auto loans reporter for Bankrate. She specializes in assisting readers in navigating the details of using loans to buy a car.

Editor: Rhys Subitch Edited by Auto loans editor

Rhys has been writing and editing for Bankrate from late 2021. They are dedicated to helping readers gain the confidence to take control of their finances with concise, well-researched, and clear facts that break down otherwise complex topics into manageable bites.

Auto loans editor

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