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Selling a Car? Watch Out for This Scam

Posted by on Friday, December 9th, 2022 in Blogs
Selling a Car

The best way to get the most money out of a used car is to sell it privately, and the best way to do so is online through websites like Craigslist, Autotrader, or Facebook marketplace. Selling a car can be an absolute headache at times with having to transfer titles, checking local laws in regards to smog checks or inspections, and finding a buyer at the right price. It doesn’t help that when people contact the seller about the used car, it’s not always an interested party but rather a scammer trying to get some money.

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Some people want to know the ins and outs of a used car before they take the effort to check it out in person. The best way to do this is to give as much information as possible such as mileage, year, model, make, personal history, and pictures of the vehicle, but a lot of times, a personal account is not always trustworthy for either the buyer or seller. So people turn to third-party websites like Autocheck, Vinaudit, or Carfax to grab a vehicle history report through the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Every car has a VIN that is tracked every time it goes through a dealership, DMV, or mechanic, where the history is then reported to a national database to keep track of the vehicle. These reports can also include any accidents, past work, and if it has been involved in a crime. These third-party reports can be incredibly helpful for both the seller and buyer. The seller can have a report on hand to give a copy to an interested buyer, and the buyer will have access to a fairly accurate report of the vehicle. These services will usually cost $20 to $40 per vehicle, which may be worth it to help sell the car faster.

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However, some scammers have developed a way to get money through this exchange by faking a vehicle history report website. This usually starts when an “interested” buyer contacts the seller, saying that they are curious about the listing, but the scammer will demand that the seller give them a vehicle history report through a specific website. The first thing to look out for is that the scammer will refuse a report from an accredited website such as Autocheck or Carfax. Instead, they will ask the vehicle owner to go to the scammer’s website.

These websites can look legitimate at first glance, but after some digging, it can be easy to root out the scam. These websites can operate in different ways by trying to phish out personal information from the car owner or give out a false vehicle history report after paying a premium. Any buyer that demands the seller to go to a strange, unknown website and will not accept any other is a scam artist.

There are several ways to determine if the website is fraudulent. One way is to look at the Contact or About page on the website and search for the same keywords or information to see if any other website has the same verbiage and wording. If so, then the website is part of a network of websites with the same purpose: to scam car owners. Another way is to give a fake VIN to the website’s search engine to see if anything pops up. This could include an obvious fake like “ABCD,” and if the website returns a result, then it is a scam. Most of the time when people purchase a report from these websites, the report itself is filled with phony or inaccurate information except for the make and model of the vehicle.

Luckily, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is aware of the scam and has created a webpage to expose it. The FTC also has a list of reliable websites to grab a report from here.

Loan - Get Good Credit It may be helpful to have a vehicle history report but make sure it’s from a reliable source and not from the scammer’s chosen website. Most legitimate buyers will accept a report from an accredited website, so they wouldn’t demand that you use their preferred source. Always be aware and knowledgeable so that you won’t be screwed out of $20 or even worse, your personal information.

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