Beware This Craigslist Auto Scam

Organized groups of thieves are stealing cars by duping sellers who use craigslist to list their vehicles for sale. In many cases, the sellers don’t know they’ve been robbed until the thieves are long gone.

It works like this: unscrupulous would-be buyers respond to a craigslist ad, and then “buy” the seller’s car after handing over a check, and getting a signed-over title from the seller.

Everything seems fine – until the seller tries to cash the check, and it bounces. By signing over the title, and handing over the keys, the seller has essentially given away the car.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said that these scams are most popular in states where the vehicle owner retains the title — even though there is an outstanding lien.

These scams are insidious, since the sellers are usually following the #1 rule of scam-avoidance, which is to deal face-to-face with the seller. However, further precautions need to be taken.

NICB is offering sage advice to would-be sellers, and buyers:

  • Do not extend payment to anyone you have not met in person.
  • Beware offers involving shipping – deal with locals you can meet in person
  • Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) – anyone who asks you to is a scammer
  • Don’t accept cashier/certified checks or money orders – banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a “guarantee”.
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).

Sometimes, the need to sell a car fast can cause us to be less cautious than we should be. However, while it may take a few weeks longer to sell a car the right way, the costs of getting scammed can last for years.

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