11 Nov Buying a Car Online? A Few Things to Keep In Mind
This blog post is not considered to be legal advice, and is intended for educational purposes only. For more information regarding any of the foregoing issues discussed above, please contact us at www.SchillbergLaw.com or Robert F. Schillberg, Jr. ([email protected]).
When buying a car these days, there are a lot of options and a lot of pitfalls. Technology has changed the way we buy cars; but beware, with the options and convenience come new ways for people to run scams. Today, dealerships must compete online with Ebay and Craigslist for customers. Used and new car dealerships now market extensively online in forums like cars.com. Convenience and competition have standardized the prices for cars, and businesses like Carfax give reliable vehicle history reports. While the technology is new, the story is as old as time: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
My friend’s wife was in a car accident and was looking for a replacement car. The insurance company had given them a fair reimbursement for her car, and they were simply looking to replace one Lexus RX300 for another. They went to several dealerships and found the process tedious. They also looked online, searching Cars.com, Ebay, and Craisglist to see if they could find a car. Most cars they found ran between $6,000 – $9,000 depending on mileage and condition.
However, on Craigslist they saw a 2005 Lexus RX330 with 150,000 for $3,000. It seemed to good to be true: a newer model, similar mileage, and a very low price. They began communicating with the seller. It turned out the woman selling the car was a widow, and her husband drove the car. She just wanted to get rid of it because it was too emotional for her. Someone had previously agreed to purchase the car in New Jersey and she had paid for the shipping, but that deal fell through, and now she was just hoping to unload the car for whatever she could get. Also, she wanted to broker the deal through Ebay to protect both parties. Everything sounded reasonable at this point.
The first red arose when it was discovered that there was no ad for the car on Ebay. The seller explained that the ad for Ebay had expired and she just wanted to reduce expenses by running a free ad on Craiglist. Not a good explanation, but the deal was so good!
Next came a guarantee: Ebay Buyer Protection Program. My friends could test drive the car for 10 days, and if they weren’t completely satisfied with the purchase they could return the car and get a full refund. They even received an official looking email that was designed to look very similar to the notices that ebay sends regularly.
Finally, my friends needed to pay for the car, and here is where the scam began to unravel. Ebay insisted on being paid with MoneyPak cards and have the receipts faxed to the Ebay Financing Center at an 866 number. Why would Ebay want to be paid that way; why not with paypal, or a major credit card? So my friends called Ebay to find out why they wanted to handle a transaction in such a strange fashion (together with the other strange things about this transaction, they were sure it was a scam by now). This is the reply they got from Ebay:
Thank you for contacting eBay.
It’s our goal to make sure that your online car purchase goes smoothly, so first things first: the only way to purchase a car on eBay Motors is to start and end your transaction on the eBay Motors website. If a seller from some other site tells you that the purchase will be handled by eBay or covered by eBay, they are lying to you.
Here are key things to look for to shop securely and to avoid fraudulent online car offers:
– Transactions that do not start and end on the eBay Motors website.
– Sellers who push for a speedy completion of the transaction and request payments via Western Union or Moneygram.
– Sellers who are unwilling to meet in person, or are unwilling to allow the buyer to physically inspect the vehicle before the purchase.
– Sellers who insist the vehicle be shipped despite the buyer’s offer to pick it up themselves.
– Transactions where the seller is in one location and the vehicle is in another.
– Vehicles advertised at well below their market value. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
For more information, please visit: http://www.ebay.com/safecarbuying/
If you have received suspicious emails:
If you have not already done so, please forward all email or live chat communications you had with the seller or “eBay” to [email protected].
If you can, please forward emails as attachments in order to preserve the original email. The original email with full headers will help us investigate the fraudsters.
If you have sent money, please include “MONEY SENT” with a dollar value in the Subject to help us identify and prioritize your emails.
Due to the volume of emails received, we cannot respond to every email sent to[email protected].
If you have been scammed:
To help us and law enforcement stop the fraudsters, please do the following: