How to avoid online vehicle scams

Fraudulent online vehicle sales are costing Aussies millions, as scammers take advantage of the boom in online shopping over the past two years.

Australians lost almost $2 million to fake online car ads in 2021, representing around 15 per cent of the $12.9 million Aussies to online classified scams overall.

More than 1878 vehicles sold online did not exist, were never delivered or were sold to multiple buyers.

It can be easy to fall for these scams. In addition to posting fake ads on legitimate websites such as Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, some scammers set up realistic-looking online stores to trap potential victims.

Read: Expert advice on scams and what to look out for this year

Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), says there are a number of steps you can take to ensure the vehicle you’re looking at isn’t a trap.

“Before you buy, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of scams,” she says.

“Be suspicious of too good to be true offers and any sellers that ask you to pay by bank transfer, gift cards or cryptocurrency.”

Read: How to talk to older people about financial scams

Ms Rickard says it pays to do your research and be suspicious of anything that seems out of the ordinary.

“Research the seller and make sure you know who you are buying from. Search online for the product or company name, plus ‘complaint’ or ‘scam’ to see what other people are saying.

“If you are buying from a social networking site, check the seller’s history and read reviews from other people who have dealt with them.”

As is common with many online classified scams, many perpetrators will ask for payment up-front before delivery of the vehicle.

Read: Five ways to check if your bargain holiday could be a scam

“When you’re paying, avoid arrangements that ask for up-front payment via bank transfer, or payment through digital currency, like Bitcoin,” Ms Rickard says.

“Always try to use a secure payment service such as PayPal or credit card transaction.

“While some scammers try to make online stores look legitimate by requesting payment via PayPal or credit card, always double check that the real PayPal platform is being used.”

The ACCC is also warning of a new scam targeting those who have already fallen victim to one.

People who have previously lost money to a scam are receiving unsolicited offers to recover that money in exchange for an up-front fee.

The ACCC says Australians have lost more than $270,000 to these scams so far this year – an increase of 301 per cent.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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