Car buying scams are age-old scams that have claimed millions of victims over the years. Both individuals and fraudulent car dealers could mislead unsuspecting car buyers by over-promising warranties or concealing a vehicle’s true condition. They may even dupe you into making deposits for cars that don’t exist.

Protecting yourself from such scams is critical when you are in the market hunting for your next vehicle. In this article, we explain everything you should know to ensure a safe purchasing experience.

Where Will You Likely Encounter a Car Buying Scam?

You could come across fraudulent advertisements through both online and offline mediums. Remember, scammers want to target as many victims as possible. Therefore, they could use random email campaigns, social media advertisements, press ads, and even flyers. Or they might advertise on an online shopping site or a newspaper.

They can also use targeted advertising with customized communication methods. These include phone calls, texts, and WhatsApp or social media messages.

Who Is Most Susceptible to Fall Victim?

Anyone can get duped by a bogus car ad. So, it is important to remain vigilant and keep your guard up. However, certain sections of society are more vulnerable than others. For instance, older adults are typically trusting of strangers and, therefore, are at higher risk of falling for a scam. They also lack sufficient awareness about cybersecurity practices, which makes them more likely to engage with online fraudsters.

Youngsters could be equally vulnerable. Their lack of life experiences could make them a natural target, especially when purchasing their first vehicle with a limited budget in hand.

Extreme bargain hunters could also fall victim. Resisting a good deal is difficult for many people. But some individuals are in the habit of actively hunting for once-in-a-lifetime deals. They are easier to dupe than those willing to settle for a reasonable price that reflects a product’s true value.

How Can You Identify a Car Buying Scam?

There are several telltale signs that you will frequently notice with these types of scams. While each car advertisement differs from the other, it is important to be aware of the common underlying red flags.

  • Extraordinarily low prices

Any genuine seller would expect a reasonable offer for their vehicle. After all, nobody wants to make a loss when selling a product.

So, if someone is selling their car below its market price, you need to ask them why. Of course, a scammer would already have prepared for this question with a reasonable answer to ward off any suspicion. Some of the common responses of fraudsters include the sudden death of the vehicle’s owner and relocation to another state or country.

Using reputable names

Using well-known names of brands and organizations makes it easier to win trust. So, you will often see bogus car ads displaying recognizable names to lure victims.

A sense of urgency

When you are pressured to respond quickly, you will not have enough time to verify information or assess details to understand the pros and cons of an offer. This is why fraudsters often create a false sense of urgency to persuade their targets to act fast.

Unusual payment methods

Similar to most other scams, car buying scams will typically require down payments using gift cards or cryptocurrency transfers. These are fast and untraceable options that will leave you with little hope of recovering the money you have lost.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself From It?

Many a time, identifying and preventing a scam could be tricky. It is because scammers often resemble genuine sellers and may mislead you with credible stories.

So, how can you identify authentic opportunities from fraudsters in disguise? Here are essential safety measures to find a bargain without compromising your safety.

Verify the source

Verifying whom you are communicating with is essential before taking any action. This is especially important when dealing with online adverts and individual sellers. Remember, many scammers use phishing techniques to hide their true identity. Therefore, you must first confirm their details to ensure you are conversing with a genuine seller.

When the advert is placed by an individual, search the given contact number on PhoneHistory. It will provide a snapshot of the number’s registered owner, together with previous owners’ details.

Sometimes an ad can display a car dealership name. If so, search for the company website on Google and find its official phone number to call and inquire about the offer. If you are not sure about the authenticity of the deal, never use the contact number provided in the advertisement; If it is a scam, they will likely be prepared with all the right answers to ease your suspicions.

Never purchase without an inspection

Carry out a thorough check of the vehicle without getting swayed into a quick purchase to secure a bargain deal. This should include a visual inspection and a review by a qualified mechanic. If the seller is unwilling to wait until you verify the necessary details, it is better to let go of the deal.

Read terms of purchase

The fine print often includes critical information. You might not have any legal protection if you purchase without reading it. So, ensure you take time to review the terms and conditions, and don’t hesitate to ask questions and clarify any ambiguities.

Avoid untraceable down-payment methods

When purchasing a car from an individual seller, avoid requests for payment via gift cards or crypto transactions.

Inform the Federal Trade Commission

If you encounter a misleading or falsified car ad, complain to the FTC via their website or hotline.

In Conclusion

Today, car buying scams are part of various elaborate fraudulent schemes. They can target unsuspecting victims through social media, phone calls, email campaigns, newspaper ads, and countless other mediums. So, protecting yourself with adequate awareness is crucial. By being mindful of common red flags and taking necessary precautions, you can ensure your safety and avoid most car scams. And if you struggle to determine the authenticity of an advert or promotion, ignore it altogether, no matter how tempting the deal may seem.