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By Ben Mirecki, President,

Toronto, Ontario – If that used car deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’ve ever shopped for a used vehicle online, more than likely you’ve run into offers that just seemed too good to be true. As I write this, I’m looking online at a 2006 Audi A4 with just over 30,000 clocked kilometres with a “clear title” and no reported damage with an asking price of only $4,750. How can this car be selling for such a low price when the average price of this model car is going for over $23,000? Something just isn’t right.

It seems that there is a growing trend where web sites that offer free classifieds for private sellers are laden with fraudulent ads. Part of the problem is that it’s all too easy for online criminals to create e-mail accounts that provide no link to their actual identity, so they are able to carry out their fraudulent deeds without too much concern for ever getting caught.

I’ve seen many cases of online vehicle fraud, and in every single instance, the fraudulent seller will either not provide a phone number or else the phone number they do provide is not their own. Often, they’ll just make up a fake phone number knowing that many people prefer sending an e-mail over picking up the phone anyway.

Another cunning trick is to use someone else’s fax number as the main contact phone number, so that the seller will resort to sending an e-mail when they attempt to call and get a fax machine on the other end.

It’s common for online crooks to respond to e-mail inquiries on these types of vehicles by asking the interested party for a deposit on the vehicle. After the unsuspecting car shopper makes their deposit, the crook disappears and is never heard from again. More often than not there is also an overly-complicated story as to why you cannot see the vehicle right away.

Fortunately, avoiding online scams is easy if you know what to look for. Here are some things you can do to avoid putting yourself at risk:

  • Always deal locally with sellers you can meet in person.
  • Never mail or wire funds to someone you don’t know.
  • Never give out financial information such as credit card, bank account number, etc.
  • Be wary of any offers to ship a vehicle, or out-of-country vehicles and/or sellers.
  • Remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Connect with