By the way, some scammers have perfected their process, you could almost call them artists. Almost… But the problem with scams is that at some level they’re predictable. Whether it be their hesitancy or their lack of straightforwardness, there’s always something off about the seller. When shopping for a car online, try to follow these guidelines for staying safe financially.

Never Use Untraceable Payment Options

Because buying a car is a substantial financial investment, you should restrict your payment methods to the most secure options available. This generally means going from your bank account right into their bank account. This makes the payment traceable and refundable if any problems arise. If the seller only accepts anonymous payments like cash, mobile wallets, or even cryptocurrencies, you might want to avoid this deal.

Verify the Vehicle In Person

Normally, after you’ve found a car online, the next step is to see the vehicle and give it a test drive. Without verifying in person, you could be subject to yet another scam. To avoid this, try shopping locally for your car. This comes with the additional benefit of circumventing shipping and handling fees.

If this isn’t possible, there are several ways to verify the car.

  • Talk to the seller by phone – Once you’re set on a vehicle, ask for the seller’s phone number and a chance to speak with them. If they refuse, consider the deal closed. No need to waste your time on a scammer who won’t chat over the phone.
  • Ask for the used car history report – Regardless of what car you buy, a used car history report is a necessity. These come standard with any reputable seller and are easily verifiable.
  • Vehicle registration and VIN – Take matters into your own hands. With these two pieces of information, you can look up the vehicle history report yourself.
  • Have them take the car to a mechanic – Another common verification method is to have the seller take the car to a mechanic. The mechanic can then assess the vehicle and report to you on its condition. This will help prevent buying a lemon.

Too Good To Be True

When looking up new cars for sale, the price should match the package. If you see one that’s too good to be true, chances are you’re right. If it’s a barely driven luxury vehicle selling for the price of a broken rusty pickup, don’t hold your breath. These are simple scams intended to catch the truly gullible. Good thing that doesn’t include you.

Match Driver’s License with the Title

A quick way to determine whether the person is the appropriate car owner is by matching their driver’s license with the title. Don’t listen to any claims that they’re selling for a friend. This is illegal, and you’ll be nursing a headache later when the car is reported stolen, and you’re explaining to the police why it’s in your possession.

One more tip: Family members cannot sell vehicles for their relatives. Even if the last name matches, if the first name is different, don’t take the deal. Don’t assume they’re doing their mother “a favor” by selling her car while she’s stuck at home. If the names don’t match 100%, no deal. This is important.

Be Patient

Put your mind in the shoes of a scammer. What is your ideal “customer”? Someone who desperately needs a car or is in a rush to buy. These are the types of people who will overlook a small hiccup as long as the promise of a car is there. These minor hiccups are what others call glaring red flags.

If you’re feeling stressed about shopping for a car, take some time to reflect. The last thing you want to do is deepen your troubles by getting scammed. Remember that the car buying process is time-consuming, but if you’re patient, there will be a car at the end of the tunnel.

Keep Your Head on Straight

If you’ve followed these guidelines, you can avoid most troubling situations that come from buying a car online. Still, you can never be prepared for everything. Generalize these principles into a code for when to exit the deal and run for the hills. If the seller hesitates to provide information or if they won’t consider meeting in person, it’s probably because they’re not the rightful owner. Keep your head on straight, don’t stress, and use common sense.