Online car ad scams on the rise

Don’t get caught out when buying a used car advertised online.

Australians have already lost over $288,000 to vehicle scams in the first quarter of this year, more than all losses reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch in 2019.

In a vehicle scam, scammers post fake online listings offering to sell in-demand cars at well below market value to lure potential buyers looking for a second-hand vehicle.

Scammers seek payment to secure the car for the buyer but never deliver the vehicle.

Vehicle scams are commonly hosted on sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Autotrader, Car Sales, Cars Guide and Gumtree.

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ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said prospective buyers should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

“If a classified ad offers a vehicle at a very low price, the ad might not be legitimate,” Ms Rickard said.

“For example, one Scamwatch report noted a listing that advertised a car for nearly $10,000 below its market value to entice buyers looking for a bargain.”

Ms Rickard said buyers should inspect the vehicle before making any payments.

“If the seller claims to be unavailable and insists on payment before meeting the buyer or allowing them to pick up their new car, this should raise suspicions,” she said.

“It is relatively common for scammers to claim that they are travelling or moving away to avoid meeting buyers before payment.

“Always try to inspect the vehicle before purchase and avoid unusual payment methods. If you have any doubts, do not go ahead with the deal.”

Vehicle scams can also lead to identity theft with about 20% of people who reported vehicle scams to Scamwatch losing personal information after providing their address, phone number and copies of their driver’s license to the scammer.

If you have been the victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible and contact the platform on which you were scammed to inform them of the circumstances.

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person's particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs. The information referenced from the ACCC is © Commonwealth of Australia.