Car scams: how to spot and swerve around them

April 4, 2017

All types of scams prevail in the online world. Car scams tend to be high on the agenda of fraudsters as a private car sale will bring in a large amount of cash quickly. Easiest way to earn a quick 60 to 80k? Sell a car. And to a scam artist, pretend to sell a car but don’t in fact sell anything, just manage to secure the money and run!


They will sound like they’re legitimate


Often scammers like to behave as if they’re from the specific website or organisation on which they’re advertising the vehicle. They will message the prospective buyer via email and instruct the buyer about payment and deposits (there’s the quick R60k) and give details substantiating why the buyer must proceed in accordance with these instructions. There’s also likely to be a bit about how the seller is protected through the site so should things go awry and you are not satisfied with your purchase you will receive your money back.


Now receiving an email like this that sounds completely legitimate would probably not raise any red flags to the buyer. But, purchasing a car online is a precarious thing to do in the first place, so if you are deadset on going ahead with it then you should educate yourself on possible scams. Knowing what to look for is the best place to start. So let’s consider three important points about receiving an email like this.


Firstly, you need to check out the email address


If the email is legitimately sent from the specific website or company the email address will be web based. For example, @ebay.


Secondly, find out where you send the money


When it comes to money transfers and deposits, if the seller is requesting that you make use of cash transfer services or to pay using Western Union so that the money may arrive outside of the country, you might be about to be taken for a ride.


Thirdly, have a look closely at the language and grammar skills of the email sender


Anyone working for a reputable company (online or otherwise) who is expected to communicate with clients in written from, won’t possess bad language skills.


Then there’s the scam that happens on the other end of the buying or selling game


If you are selling your car then you should be aware of false deposits being made to secure the vehicle. This is when a buyer expresses wanting to go ahead and purchase your vehicle. So you await monies to be paid and once that has happened you hand over the vehicle. The catch here is that while money is reflected in your account it is still awaiting clearance and once the scammer has taken hold of the vehicle they’ll cancel the transaction. So, never hand over the vehicle until the money is cleared in your bank account and you have checked with your bank that it is in fact there. Also, if someone insists on paying you with a cheque, wait for the cheque to clear before you hand over keys.


There has been a spate of online scams all over South Africa


People are losing money everyday due to being victimised. These online fraudsters feel nothing, they’re simply out to get a quick buck and, because it’s always been easy to hide online, that’s where they operate. But don’t be fooled thinking that online criminals are in such good hiding they can’t be caught. While the advancements in technology never stop, the technology to find cyber criminals has also developed rapidly. So it is important you speak up if you have fallen prey to online criminal activity.


You should immediately report the incident to the site on which it all occurred and alert them to their website being compromised. They can capture the information they have on the user who committed the crime and assist in catching the perpetrator. You should report the incident to the police too so that a case can be opened and, once there is a case number, you can hand that and the contact for the investigating officer to the website authorities. Don’t sit back and let these cyber criminals and bullies get away with their nefarious behaviour.


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