RIP-OFF ALERT: An international criminal ring that would screen scrape legitimate online listings of cars for sale and then pose as the real seller has been indicted in Los Angeles.
Here’s how this particular scam played out: The crooks would take the photos, the VIN and the description of real postings from completely legitimate websites such as eBay Motors, Edmunds or Craigslist. Then they would re-list them elsewhere as if it they owned the vehicles for sale and were offering them at a really great price.
For example, if a vehicle was originally listed for $10,000, the criminals might list it for $7,000 or $8,000 — not low enough to completely raise suspicions, but just low enough to make you think the seller is really desperate.
A potential buyer might then pull a CARFAX report and find the car checks out. In addition, they would get all their endless questions answered by the polite “seller.” But upon placing a deposit down, the car would never materialize because the crooks never owned it in the first place.
Even though indictments have been handed down, the real problem is that authorities don’t know how to get to the Eastern European brains behind the operation. The criminals apparently had 110 bank accounts set up to funnel $4 million in stolen money over the course of four years.
The key here is this: Deal locally with people you can meet in person selling cars that you can see in person. If you follow this one rule, as Craigslist says, you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts out there in cyberspace.