How to Avoid Being Scammed When Selling a Car  

How to Avoid Being Scammed When Selling a Car  

Selling your car or truck on your own can be a financially rewarding experience, but when selling a vehicle on your own, particularly online, you need to guard against being scammed.   Thankfully, there are easy and inexpensive ways to avoid being scammed.

Before we address how to avoid being scammed, the most common car buying scam needs to be described. The most common used car buying scam involves a person offering to purchase the vehicle sight unseen, paying for the used vehicle with a cashier’s check. When the check arrives it is for slightly more than the asking price. The buyer is informed of this “error” and he requests a cashier’s check in the amount of the excess money. The cashier’s check is sent, as the buyer’s cashier’s check appears to be legitimate because the funds have appeared in your account. Sometimes the scam ends there; the bank determines the original check is counterfeit, and you are out the supposedly excess funds. Sometimes the scam gets worse – the buyer decides he does not want the car, and wants his check back. A check is written in the amount of the original check minus the “excess” funds. Days later the bank notifies you that the original cashier’s check is counterfeit. The cashier’s check you sent has long since been cashed, the buyer can’t be located, and now you are out the entire amount of the original cashier’s check.

There are six recommendations that will greatly reduce, if not eliminate a potential scam. It is recommended that at a minimum, used car sellers follow the first four recommendations.

  1. Never agree to sell a vehicle to someone that does not want to see it in person.The description in the online listing might contain all the information potential buyers may need, but one should always be wary of someone that does not want to test drive the vehicle or take it to a local mechanic.
  2. Never take a personal check.The buyer may seem like an honest person, and his excuse that he couldn’t get to his bank in time to get a cashier’s check might be legitimate, but neither of those things matter. There is too much at stake financially to allow emotions to play a role in the transaction.
  3. Never agree to allow a buyer to pay in installments.Again, the buyer may seem like an honest person, and unable to pay for the vehicle in full, but once the title is signed over to the buyer the car is no longer yours. There is nothing that can keep the buyer from defaulting on the agreed upon payment plan.
  4. Make sure the cashier’s check is legitimate.The seller can call the issuing bank to help confirm the check is real. To take it a step further, wait for the check to clear (not just appear in your account), before completing the title transfer.


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