With the advent of the internet it was only a matter of time before it became a booming marketplace for cars. The online car industry, according to Ebay, now consists of millions of car deals every year. The online leader is obviously Ebay due to its auction format and huge fan base. This is great for car buyers and sellers as it gives them another avenue than having to go to a dealer. The good news is that the vast majority of online car deals through auction sites are positive transactions. There is a darkside, however. Along with these growing sales is a rapidly growing amount of fraud. Scam artists are lining up to take advantage of unsuspecting car buyers. You can take steps to protect yourself and avoid this online car fraud.

Be alert. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Do your research and do not get clouded by an unbelievable deal. Do your homework. Ebay lets you search completed auctions so you can get a idea of what you can expect for the make and model of car you are looking for. There are also many books available which will give you a price range for the type of car or truck you are looking for. Kelly Blue Book is very handy.

Be cautious. Before you ever place a bid, pull a Carfax or Autocheck by Experian. This will reveal possible odometer and title problems. It will also reveal important issues like if the vehicle has been in a wreck or flooded. Never rely on the sellers word as to the vehicles history. Per the FTC and the Better Business Bureau, odometer fraud is a major concern in internet purchases. Odometers have been altered and even digital odometers can be tampered with. We asked a mechanic in Louisiana how this can be so easy. This is what he said:

Its easy, you just pull out the odometer/speedometer unit out of the dash and send it to the manufacturer. You state its broke and report the mileage you want and they ship a new one back with the mileage you requested on it. No one ever checks anything. Its done all the time.

A carfax and a good inspection by a qualified technician will reveal the true mileage.

Unbelievable, I wonder how many times this really occurs. Always get a Carfax.

Be thorough. Read the entire listing. Is it full of grammatical errors? Lots of misspellings? This is a high indicator of a fraudulent listing. Many overseas frauds contain vast grammatical errors and misspellings similar to Nigerian spam mail scams. If it does not look right than there is probably something wrong. Also look into the sellers feedback if through an auction site like Ebay. This will indicate if they are reliable, but you cannot solely rely on feedback as some scammers and fraudsters have found ways around this.

Get it in writing. Any promises are meaningless unless you have them in writing. Car salespeople at car dealerships are notorious liars. What the seller says and what a warranty really covers can be 2 entirely different things. I was sold a car through Ebay by Farmerville Motors in Farmerville, Louisiana and the salesman promised that the car would pass inspection in my state. It did not pass due to a bad OBD system. The salesperson at Farmerville Motors stated that the entire emissions system on the car I purchased was covered. It was not. At a local GM dealership it was found that only the catalytic converter was covered, not any part of the OBD and emissions system. Get any promises in writing.

Be wary. There are such things as undisclosed flood and frame damage. Fraudulent car dealers and body shops are selling previously crashed cars and flood cars for quick profit. Be careful and do your homework. Do not send payment or sign any paperwork especially as is paperwork until you see and thoroughly checkout the car. Do not become a victim like I did. The car Farmerville Motors in Farmerville, Louisiana sold to me later revealed it had been involved in a possible unreported flood – no wonder the OBD system did not work.

Most online car sales go without a hitch. But, be careful and limit your exposure to fraud. There are many great sellers on auction sites like Ebay, but there are fraudulent ones too. Do not become a victim of online car fraud like I did due to Farmerville Motors in Farmerville, Louisiana.