Wising Up To Internet Crime

The used car market has always been a thriving trade. Where there’s money to be made or a bargain to be sniffed out; punters have been wheeling and dealing automobiles since the earliest days of the industry. But the internet seen the practice totally explode, with popular online auction sites offering inexpensive advertisements that reach huge volumes of potential buyers. The game has changed, allowing any John Doe to buy, sell, or even run an online business through the power of online connectivity.

But with so much money exchanging hands, it wasn’t long before there was a criminal presence greedily trying to grab its slice of the pie. Unlike telephone or in-person enquiries, the faceless nature of the internet keeps the identity of criminals hidden, which ultimately makes it rife for scams. Indeed, sadly the used car market is now marred by the fraudsters and con artists who prey on the innocence of unsuspecting people.

Even those that think they’re pretty internet-wise when it comes to these sorts of unsavory practices probably aren’t aware of just cunning scammers can be. This is well beyond spam emails celebrating a million dollar inheritance from a long lost relative; criminals are now going to great lengths to lay their traps and scope out their targets.

Fake adverts litter websites such as eBay and Craigslist, hoping to bait targets with juicy low-price offers or fabricated images of mint-condition vehicles. And these vehicles are often cheap family-cars or older imports, whose lower cost seems to legitimize them to individuals that only suspect foul play on exotic too-good-to-be-true adverts. But it is, in fact, the opposite end of the spectrum that is most at threat.

In February last year, a Cleveland woman was ripped off by a scammer that had convinced her to purchase loaded eBay cards to pay for the $3000 Nissan Murano. The scammer himself had voiced concerns about fraud, suggesting the eBay card system would serve as protection for them both. To add credibility to his claim, the fraudster sent fake eBay customer representative emails issuing seemingly legitimate instructions. The lady promptly bought 6 $500 eBay cards and handed the codes over to the “representative”, ignorant to the scammer's scheme.

As a seller, your own listings are equally at risk from devious con artists, too. Harry Harphant learned the hard way: having listed his Honda Prelude on Craigslist for $3000, he was contacted by an interested party via text message. The buyer claimed to live in South Carolina and wanted the car shipped to him, so he included an additional $2450 in the check to cover that cost. After waiting for a token few days for the check to clear, Harphant wired through $2450 to the “shipper”. Yep, you guessed it: the check bounced and the “shipper” was, in fact, a scam artist.

Now, having just read both of those instances, you’re probably shaking your head in pity, half feeling sorry for the victims, half smirking at their ignorance. But you’d be amazed at how easy it is to fall into such pitfalls when in the midst of the emotion of a sale. Not to mention, how convincing the acting skills of these professional scam artists can be. Sadly, in most cases, it seems the more trusting one is, the more likely they are to be taken advantage of. Similarly, the greater the importance of a successfully completed the transaction by the innocent party, the more they are exposed.

It’s all too easy to start cutting corners because outside factors distort your better judgement. You might rush through procedures to capitalize on a hot deal, or maybe the allure of a quick sale for a much needed financial boost encourages you to break your own rules.

Whatever circumstances have brought you into the second-hand car market, just remember to lay out guidelines and hold yourself responsible for sticking to them. A good place to start is to refer to our car selling guide, where we issue a bit of advice on how to stay safe when it comes to exchanging vehicle. But the basic rule of thumb is to screen the other party involved: get their full name, speak to them in person, and never accept check or any form of e-payment unless it is a legitimate bank transfer.

Sources:

http://www.tmj4.com/money/ consumer/dont-waste-your- money/man-loses-2500-to- craigslist-used-car-scam

http://www.cleveland19.com/story/31303570/car-purchase-turns-out-to-be-clever-scam

 

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