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OMVIC Blog: Car Buying Tips

Is That Used Car Ad FAKE?

Mar 8

Written by: OMVIC Communications
Thursday, March 8, 2018  RssIcon

two women shopping on their mobile phones

Online Car-Buying Scams

Professional scammers love to troll popular websites like Kijiji, AutoTRADER and Craigslist, preying on unsuspecting consumers with their phony car ads. It’s how they make their money. And they’re really good at it!

Most of these phony online car ads closely resemble a typical car ad placed by a legitimate private seller, it’s not until the consumer calls that it all starts to go sideways. They’re told fake, made-up stories, i.e. the seller has divorced or relocated and the car is in storage (or someplace similar but inaccessible), or that the seller is actually a dealership located in the U.S.

In the case of the “U.S. dealer”, potential buyers are directed to the dealership’s website replete with impressive inventory and satisfied customer testimonials. The “private sellers” try to gain your confidence by promising free shipping and a money-back guarantee if you’re unhappy with the car. They’ll tell you you’re protected because the money will be held in escrow or they’ll utilize PayPal or Google Pay.

Once the hook is set, consumers are asked to send money (a deposit or the total amount) for the advertised vehicle, but guess what - that seller/dealership doesn’t exist… and neither does the vehicle. So, the consumer never gets the vehicle they ‘think’ they bought. And by the time they realize what has happened and notify the police and/or OMVIC, their money and the scam artist are long gone. This is just one example of how online scammers prey on car buyers, for others click here.

Signs of a Fake Car Ad

Most online car ads are legit, placed by an honest private seller or OMVIC-Registered Dealer, looking to find a new home for their used vehicle at a fair price - but some aren’t. And buying from a scam artist can prove to be a very costly mistake. OMVIC reminds consumers to remain vigilant and protect themselves by watching for some of the telltale signs of a scam:

  • The advertisement is posted locally, but the vehicle is located a long distance away.
  • There are excuses why an inspection of the vehicle isn’t possible (i.e. seller has relocated so vehicle is located in a storage/secure compound, military base, etc.).
  • The seller agrees to ship the vehicle to you with a money-back guarantee. Don’t trust that the seller will follow through with this promise or that a trust or escrow account is real.
  • Pictures don’t reflect the season or the locale. Look for signs in the advertisement’s picture(s) that indicate the vehicle’s location, like leaves on trees or snow (when there should/shouldn’t be any), palm trees, tropical plants. Also, what licence plates are on the vehicle in the pictures? If none, why not? When in doubt, ask the seller to provide a specific photograph of the vehicle – perhaps one with that day’s newspaper in it.
  • The vehicle is priced below market value. If a price seems too good to be true, it’s a warning – not an opportunity.

  • For more car-buying tips to help prevent you from falling victim to an online scam and to learn how to spot a curbsider, visit:

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