Guide to Scams & Frauds

On the whole, buying and selling a car online is an easy and safe process. But you should always beware of scammers who try to use the anonymous environment of the internet to rip people off.

Buyers, sellers, and even leasers or renters have lost thousands of dollars to scammers on real estate, rental, fake banking and car websites. In nearly all cases, these scams can be avoided if the buyers and sellers are more cautious. If the offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Case study: car seller target

One example of a common scam targeted at car sellers is a buyer who offers to purchase (without inspecting) the vehicle and offers to pay via PayPal. Due to them being interstate or overseas, they claim they will organise and pay for a freight company to pick up the vehicle. They will then claim an issue with paying the freight company so instead offer to pay you more and ask you to pay the freight cost into a western union account. The buyer then sends fake PayPal receipts to the seller (you) showing the extra funds. The seller is scammed after they have paid the funds into the account and then find out that the original payment into PayPal was faked.

Case study: car buyers target

A car will be offered for sale at well below the ordinary selling price. When contacted, the seller will advise that either the seller or the vehicle is located overseas or interstate and will ask for an up-front deposit without allowing the buyer to view the car and its condition or research its history. Once the up-front deposit has been paid, the fake seller disappears and the potential buyer has been scammed.

SMS scams

Other known scams include a scammer texting sellers asking questions about the vehicle and asking for a response via email. Call the number that texted you, if you are unable to reach them via this number DO NOT attempt to email them. It is a scam to open a dialog with you.

Please Note: be cautious in dealing with car sellers that are overseas and always arrange to:

  • View the vehicle prior to the transfer of any money.
  • If the offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Verify that the person on the other end is genuine. Check all the contact details.
  • Always ensure you talk to seller on the phone.
  • If the number in the ad is disconnected, be wary. If the buyer/seller says it is disconnected because they are overseas, ask for a landline phone number at their current location, as well as a mobile phone number.
  • If they give you a street address, check on Google Street View what is actually at that address.
  • If you see the Carsguide.com.au logo on a website, check with us if we do in fact endorse the site and it is a trusted partnership. Go to carsguide.com.au/static/contact-us

Carsguide.com.au will NEVER ask you for personal details. If you receive a communication from 'Carsguide or Carsguide.com.au' that you think is suspicious, contact us immediately and we will advise if it is legitimate or not.

Further advice from the ACCC

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's website offers the following tips to avoid being stung:

  • Use your common sense: the offer may be a scam.
  • ALWAYS get independent advice if an offer involves significant money, time or commitment.
  • Do not agree to offers or deals straight away: tell the person that you are not interested or that you want to get some independent advice before making a decision.
  • You can contact your local office of fair trading, ASIC or the ACCC for assistance.
  • NEVER send money, or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust.

In addition, here are some specific things to look out for when buying or selling a car online:

  1. Know the market value of the car. Use Carsguide.com.au's car valuation tool to check if a car is being offered for sale at market value.
  2. Do as many checks as you can to ensure the offer is legitimate, in particular view the car in person and check registration papers and service logs.
  3. Read all the terms and conditions of any offer very carefully: claims of free or very cheap offers often have hidden costs.
  4. Speak to the seller by telephone rather than just email and if the phone number is provided is not contented treat this with suspicion.
  5. Don't make any payments until you are satisfied that the offer is genuine.
  6. When accepting an offer, insist on the buyer paying the correct amount.
  7. For more information on vehicle fraud visit: www.accc.gov.au or www.scamwatch.gov.au

Please Note: Carsguide.com.au does not accept money transfers or handle deposits on behalf of private buyers or sellers.