While most used car sellers are aboveboard, others use fraudulent practices to unload vehicles on unsuspecting consumers. Before buying a used vehicle from an individual or dealer, do your due diligence to ensure that the purchase is valid.
These steps will help protect you from used car fraud whether you plan to buy in person or online.
Be wary of low prices
In a common scheme reported by the FBI, fraudulent online sellers create copies of listings from reputable websites like Autotrader. They ask interested parties to wire the money into an escrow account. The catch? No car exists. Often, this type of scam lists an outrageously low price for the vehicle so the unsuspecting buyer feels like they cannot pass up the great deal.
Check the URL
Many scammers spoof sites from trusted names such as Edmunds. Make sure the URL lists the correct domain, or type the URL directly into your browser rather than following a link. Often, these sites use similar but not quite correct addresses to fool car shoppers.
Meet in person
Even if you initiate a purchase online, avoid sellers who refuse to meet in person. You should also inspect the vehicle and have it inspected by a licensed mechanic before you give the seller any money.
Review the mileage
The Better Business Bureau warns consumers of odometer fraud. If the vehicle has very low mileage but is several years old, check maintenance records as well as the official vehicle history report. Signs of wear and tear are also a red flag.
Do your research
When a car seller asks you to use an escrow company, make sure the company actually exists and provides this service. Get the name of the company, then call them yourself to gather the facts before moving forward.
If you suspect or detect an attempted scam while car shopping, you have recourse. Report the incident to the FBI and local consumer protection agencies as well as law enforcement.