Used car scams up 75%: What to know before buying a car online

Scammers posting fake ads with great cars at great prices

Scammers are posting fake ads promoting what appear to be great deals, and some are falling for it. Here's what you need to know before purchasing a used car online.

If you’re in the market for a used car and have been shopping around online, it’s important to know which ads are legitimate, and which are scams.

The market is particularly difficult for shoppers right now, as used car prices are high and inventory is low. It doesn’t help that scammers are posting fake advertisements promoting what appear to be great deals on used cars, and some are falling for it.

Online car scams are reportedly up 75% since 2021.

Fraudsters are posting fake ads on websites like Craigslist, offering great cars at great prices. The ads provide little information, and just ask the potential buyer to cover the shipping or transportation costs for the out-of-state vehicle -- and that’s where they get you.

Eager buyers looking to close the deal end up sending over credit card information and other personal information. Once the scammer receives that information, the ad then vanishes just as quickly as the money does.

If you’re shopping online for a used car, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Beware of ridiculously good deals that seem too good to be true.
  • Contact the seller by phone.
  • See the car in person before buying it.
  • Don’t give in to threats or pressure to purchase the vehicle.
  • Don’t wire funds when purchasing a car.

More tips: What you can do to keep your money, identity out the hands of scammers


About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.