Car Scam - Used Car Buyer Scam
A common scam by phony used-car buyers can leave you with you with an empty bank account and no way out.

A popular scam that has victimized many used-car sellers is one in which the proposed buyer usually claims to be from Africa, or another country, and is eager to buy the advertised car, sight unseen, for the full asking price no haggling. After some complicated email exchanges with the "buyer," the victim ends up with a worthless cashiers check or money order, a depleted bank account, and is still stuck with the car.

It's a scam that is easy to spot when you know what to look for.

How does it work?
You advertise your used car for sale in a newspaper classified ad or on an "auto trader" website. Your car may be one that is in less-than-perfect condition and has high mileage such that it may be difficult to find a buyer. You are anxious to sell.

You are contacted by an interested buyer who wants your car and is willing to pay your price, without seeing or examining the car. He tells you that he lives/works in Africa (or other foreign location) and that he will arrange to have the car picked up by his "agent" and shipped to him. He may say that he's in the U.S. and represents someone in another country, although his use of the English language is poor. He offers to send you a U.S. certified cashier's check or bank check right away.

You receive the cashier's check but the amount is more than the agreed-on price of the car. The reason that the check is in excess of your asking price is typically explained as a "mistake," or that the check had already been cut before setting a price, or that the "extra" money is for "shipping expenses," or any one of a number of other explanations all of which are false.

You deposit the perfectly official-looking check at your bank. The bank credits your account for the amount of the check, although the check has not actually cleared yet, and won't be for at least 10 business days or more which your "buyer" knows.

Uh-oh! Something's wrong
Meantime, the "buyer" contacts you again and reminds you that he sent you too much money, and reminds you to send him or his agent a money order or cashier's check for the excess amount, which might be a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. You do it, because you are anxious to sell your car.

You withdraw the "excess" money from your bank account (the same account where you deposited the "buyer's" cashier's check) to send to him or his "agent."

A day or so later, after you have already sent part of the money, the "buyer" may contact you again and may inform you that he (or his client) has changed his mind about purchasing your car, and asks you to send him the rest of the money. You do it. You withdraw more money from your bank account.

Now it gets worse
Your bank calls you a few days later and informs you that the cashier's check from the buyer is counterfeit and is totally worthless. They debit your account for the full amount of the check.

The bank now wants you to make good on the checks you've written from your account that you sent to the "buyer" or his "agent." Whatever money of your own that was originally in your account is now gone. Your bank wants you to pay them the rest of the money. The bank claims no responsibility in the matter. Your funds are not guaranteed under banking regulations.

You're out of luck
You still have your used car but you now owe your bank a substantial amount of money. The bank has no sympathy for you and offers no help.

The "buyer" (scammer) was using a bogus name and can't be located. There is no one to sue or prosecute. These are professional criminals who know how to disappear and pop up again somewhere else. Law enforcement agencies are helpless to act.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. It happens to real people every day. Although this scam has been around for a few years, there are still many people who haven't heard about it. We're trying to help in that regard.

Bottom line
The details on this scam may vary, but the basic scheme is always the same: foreign "buyer" using poor English, bad spelling, bad cashier's check for more than the asking price, followed by a request for refund or forwarding of some or all of the money before the check clears the bank.

Don't get caught in this one. Many people have. If you are selling a used car and a buyer from a foreign country claims to want your car, sight unseen, for your full asking price, with some complicated scheme for payment that involves you sending money to someone else, then the chances of this being a scam are about 99.999999999%.

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Actual examples of used-car scam
Here are a few examples of actual email exchanges from real scammers to potential victims. These notes have been forwarded to us at Used Car Advisor.com by thoughtful readers who found our site before becoming victims.

Notice in the following email that the asking price for the old car is $450 but the scammer is sending $3500 by cashier's check. Guess whose bank account would be short by $3050 very soon.

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Hello [seller name],
Good day to you,my name is Franks .Im a Autodealers,Im interested in purchasing your (1977 Dodge Aspen).Im making this transaction urgent as i have my client who is in need of it as soon as possible.I will like to see a pic of it and Let me know the present condition of it and i will like to know your best offer for it.My client made me understand he will be making the payment through a certified cashier check
[editor: it's certifed alright - certified counterfeit] as the only way he could get this transaction done as soon as possible.Let me know if that is okay by you. Looking forward hearing from you soon.
Thanks,
Franks.

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Hello [seller name],
Thanks for your mail and understanding and will want payment to be asap
[editor: they are always in a hurry - to get your money], i will go about payment by instructing my client in the states to issue you a certified cashier check of $3,500 and this should take care of all expences in this transaction, what you will do once you have recieved the check ,is to cash it, and deduct your own money($450) and the wiring charges and wire the balance to my international shipping agent through western union transfer. Once he recieves the balance,he will come over to your location in the very next day [editor: and my dog whistles Dixie] for pick up of the (1977 Dodge Aspen), now the money wired to the shipper is his fees for his services, transportation to your location and back to me, also for all charges that may arise along this transaction cos i will want the good to be delivered to me safe and sound without problems, i shall send you my shipper address as soon as i contact him.All what i need from you now is to mail me with you details below...
YOUR FULL NAME..........(on check)
YOUR CONTACT ADDRESS....
YOUR STATE AND ZIPCODE.......
YOUR COUNTRY.......
YOUR PHONE NUMBER..........(both mobile and landphone number)
Do get back to me asap with this details for payment to be made out to you immediately,so that i can forward it to my client who will issue out payment on my behalf to you the, let me know asap if you are still intrested so that we could seal this transaction on time.
Regards,
Franks Joel.

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Here is another email that was forwarded to us by an alert seller. Notice how the counterfeit cashiers check would be written for $6400 more than the price of the car that was being sold. Notice, too, the intricate explanation for the reason for the extra money. If the seller had sent the $6400 check, as requested, his bank account would have been $6400 short because the original $15,150 check from the buyer was worthless.

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Hello John,

Thanks for your mail. I am very sorry for not getting back to you as expected, i was trying to conclude issue of payment with my client. I am delighted to tell you that my client appreciates and commends your vehicle, with full interest, he is willing to carry on with this transaction. I have finalized with my client on the price of $8,750 which is the last asking price for your vehicle and its ok by him, I have forwarded your vehicle information including your last mail to him for his proper records.

He also instructed me to inform you that payment will get to you in a US certified cashier check of $15,150, which is a refund payment of a cancelled order earlier made by my client .Due to company policy this check has to be made out in this amount to you,Because company policy only allows a refund payment on one cashier cheque.So you are required to deduct the cost of your vehicle (car) $8,750, when payment gets to you and refund balance $6,400 to the Agent ( our shipper ) for him to be able to offset shipping & tax charges, and other cosmetic repair costs.

After payment has reached you and balance sent back to my agent,he will then proceed with his mechanics for the inspection, pick up(of vehicle & signing of title papers), make some cosmetic touches and drive to a prepaid shipper to be shipped to my customer,while title papers and other necessary documets will be handed over to my agent at the time of pick up. [editor: actually, you'll never see us or your money ever again -- and you can keep your old car]

Please confirm this and forward the following informations;
Names:.......
Address:.......
Phone#:.......

For payment to be made and send to you as soon as possible.I decided to mail it now for urgent purpose. Thanks for yor understanding and co-operation
Best regards,

Jeffery.

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Here's another example of an email exchange between a potential "buyer" and a used car seller who was one of our readers, and who caught it first, thank goodness. Notice the poor English, grammar, and inconsistent use of capitalization. It's the same pattern as the other scams.

Hello [seller name]
My name is dennis,i'm contacting you in respect of your advert as the subject follow {1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon}
[editor: their automated email scammer software forgot to take the backets off the vehicle name] placed online for sale at the amount of {$2500},I am delighted to know if you still have it for sale. If furtunate it still available, I will like to know it condition at this present and the way it function. Also, I will appreciate if you can send me some pictures of it and tell me the last price you want to sell it for me .or the last offer you posted online ,I am counting and holding on to you that you will reply this offer of mine as soon as possible. It is very urgent,and stay bless.
Thanks!
Dennis

Hello [seller name]
How you doing, i want you to know that i ma queit okay with the amount of this goods and that of it conditon, and i will want the payment to be as soon as posible...i will issue you a cheque of {$3500}
[editor: again, fill-in-the-blanks scammer software. These guys must work on a scammer assembly line] which will take care of the expensive both the shipping and the goods.
all you have to do is for you to have the cheque and clear it at the nearset cashing point around you then you wire the balance to my shipping company which i will give the address to you when the time comes to wire the money. so that they can come up for the pick up on time in your location which i have giving them your contact address to pick the goods up when you send them the money.they are the company i used since i stated my business and they have never piss me off.
[editor: you're pissing me off] all you have to do now is to give me your
FULL NAME.......
FULL ADDRESS...................
COUNTRY...................
STATE..............
CITY......................
ZIP CODE.....................
so that the cheque can be issue out for you asap.
stay bless.
regards.....


hello [seller name]
thanks for your mailing sound great, well dont burder for shipping as i told u before i have my international shipping company that will come for the pickup of the goods which is in africa okay your money is $1700 and i have issue the check of $3500 and you gona recieve the check soonest as far as you recieve the check and have it clear and you gona diduct your own and send the remain balance to my shipper agent who we come for the pick up of the goods.
THANKS
REGARD

HELLO [seller name]
Thanks for youe mailing am happy to read your message,well you gona recive to check assap, when you have the check first imforme so that i will tell what nest to do after that am gona give my shipper agent imformation that you gona wire the rest money to.
THANKS

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Here's yet another example of an email received by another of our readers. The seller had placed an ad to sell his car with AutoTrader. Won't these people ever give up?

Hello [seller name],
Thank you for your prompt response to my inquiry,and the information provided on your vehicle, i have just spoken with the customer not long ago regarding payment and pickup arrangements, though he really commended the details of the vehicle's condition and features from the autotrader AD.. he explained that there is no much time left considering the purpose of the vehicle and that his debtor company already took more than enough time to release his refund.
He has instructed me to carry on with the transaction at the price of $6,500, and that he will rest virtually all the transaction on my shoulder and assign a shipper like wise that i will work with he further intoned that payment will get to you in a cashiers check of $10,600 which was an earlier cancelled order made by him, this amount is expected to in part cover both the shipping and any other expences that m! ight accrue in the course of this transaction since he would be travelling out of town for business soon,So you are required to deduct the cost of your vehicle $6,500 when payment is received and send balance of $4,100 to the shipper for him to be able to offset shipping, tax / other charges and cosmetic repair costs.
Upon receiving your payment and balance sent down to the shipper ,immediately the shipper's agent will come for pick up (of vehicle & signing of title papers), some cosmetic touches and drive to the prepaid shipper. Confirm this and forward your LEGAL NAMES, ADDRESS and PHONE NUMBER today for payment to be made out. Please get back to me within fews hours of receiving my mail to confirm this.
All other information needed in completion of this transaction will be given to you in due time.
Your honesty, understanding and co-operation will be highly appreciated.
Thanks in anticipation of your understanding.
Kind Regards,
Ambriel.

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And another good example from Bridget. Notice how the description of the car seems to be pasted in, as in a form letter.

HELLO Bridget ,

THANKS FOR THE MAIL I"STILL INTRESTED IN BUYING IT.AND I WILL LIKE TO TELL YOU THAT THE PAYMENT WILL NOT TOO LATE BEFORE GETTING TO YOU.MORESO .I COULD HAVE FIXED A DATE TO COME TO YOUR LOCATION TO SEE THE ( 2000 Chevy Express 1500 V-8) [editor: cut-and-paste] BUT THERE IS NO TIME FOR THAT SINCE I KNOW THAT YOU ARE TRUST WORTHY I CAN DEPEND AND COUNT ON YOU,I AM HIGHLY INTERESTED IN BUYING THE ( 2000 Chevy Express 1500 V-8) [editor: cut-and-paste], MEANWHILE THANKS FOR THE PICS,YOU CAN ASURE ME THAT THE( 2000 Chevy Express 1500 v-8) [editor: cut-and-paste] IS IN GOOD CONDITON.MEANWHILE THE PAYMENT WILL BE MADE BY MONEY ORDER REASON IS THAT I AM OUT FOR BUSINESS NOW AS I SAID EARLIER BUT I HAVE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO MAIL YOU SINCE YOU ARE WILLING TO SELL (2000 Chevy Express 1500 V-8) [editor: cut-and-paste] FOR ME I WILL WANT THIS INFORMATION FOR THE MONEY ORDER AND AS SOON AS YOU PROVIDE IT I WILL FORWARD IT TO MY ASSOCIATE IN THE STATE TO ISSUE THE MONEY ORDER FOR PAYMENT MEANWHILE THE REASON WHY THE MONEY ORDER IS $8000 OVER THE AMOUNT YOU ARE WILLING TO SELL IT IS THAT I WILL WANT YOU TO FAITHFULLY DEDUCT YOUR MONEY FOR THE (2000 Chevy Express 1500 V-8) [editor: cut-and-paste] WHICH IS $5,900 AND I WILL MAKE YOU AN OFFER OF $100 PLEASE KINDLY SEND THE REMAINING FUNDS TO MY SHIPPING AGENT FOR HIM TO COME FOR THE PICK UP IN YOUR LOCATION. SO MAIL ME BACK WITH THESE INFORMATION REQUESTED FOR SO THAT THE CHECK CAN GET TO YOU

SONEEST [Mexico]

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Here's another one sent to us by Chris. Notice the "buyer" is sending $8150 extra money (but in a single check) that he wants Chris to send to his "shipping agent." The "buyer's check is fake; Chris's check wouldn't be. Chris's bank account would have a deficit of exactly $8150 if he followed through on this deal.

Hello ,

I have forwarded your vehicle information to my Financial Instituttion for them to be able to release the fund to you, due to time constraint on the fact that we are running short of time.
I'm delighted to tell you that I appreciate your concern and has commended your vehicle,
with full interest, am will to carry on with this transaction, You are hereby inform that payment will get to you in an amount of $19,000 which cover's the cost of your car and amount for shipment.I have also instructed my Financial Instituttion to release the fund. So you are required to deduct the cost of your vehicle ( car) $10,850 when payment gets to you and refund balance $8,150 to our agent ( the shipper ) for him to be able to offset shipping payment, tax charges and other cosmetic repair costs.
[editor: he's a trusting soul to send $19,000 to a total stranger - if it were real].
After payment has reached you and balance sent to shipper, the shiper's agent will come for inspection, pick up of vehicle & signing of title papers, make some cosmetic touches and drive to a prepaid shipper to be shipped to the approve destination.
Please confirm your acceptance so that the finance institute will contact you immediately.
Please Forward the following informations;

NAME:.............
ADDRESS:..........
PHONE:............
Your honesty, understanding and co-operation will be highly
appreciated.

Have a wonderful day.

Javier.

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Here's a scammer's email sent to us by another alert reader. Notice the common explanation for why the check will be larger than the asking amount for the advertised vehicle -- that it is a refund check from a previous deal. Oh yeah.

Hello,

I have forwarded your vehicle information to my clientand after evaluation and due to time constraint on the fact that we are runningshort of time. I'm delighted to tell you that my client has recommended your vehicle, with full interest and he has instructed me to carry on with his transaction, Hope the eugine and body is in perfect condition and oil changed.[editor: why does he trust you so much?]

He also instructed me to inform you that payment will get to you in a cashier check of $26,000 which is a refund payment of a cancelled order [editor: there's always a good reason why the check is for more money than the asking price] earlier made by my client. Due to company policy this check has to be made out in this amount to you, Because company policy only allows a refund payment on one cashier cheque. So you are required to deduct the cost of your vehicle (car) $19,000 when payment gets to you and refund balance of $7,000 to the Agent ( our shipper ) for him to be able to offset shipping & tax charges, and other cosmetic repair costs.After payment has reached you and balance sent to shipper, the shipper's agent will come for inspection, pick up (of vehicle & signing of title papers), make some cosmetic touches and drive to a prepaid shipper to be shipped to my customer.
Please confirm this and provide the following information so that your payment package will be delivered to you as soon as possible;
Names:
Address:
Phone number:

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Below is an email we recieved from one of our site visitors. Notice the similarity to the email just above probably the same guy.

"Hi, I received the below e-mail yesterday from a gentleman "claiming" to want to purchase my vehicle that is for sale on "carsdirect.com". Seems like the classic scam you have warned about. I have no intention of dealing with him and told him I would forward this to my bank and attorney for "legitimacy confirmation" (not actually). I'm sure I won't hear from him again. Just wanted to thank you for your consumer alerts!"
JK

Hello,
How are you today?.I am currently out of town
[editor: they are always out of town or in a foreign country where you can't talk to them] on a business trip,but i
will definitely call you when i am back.Meanwhile,I have forwarded your
vehicle information to my client and after evaluation,I'm delighted to tell
you that my client has commended your vehicle, with full interest. I have also
discussed the payment issue with him and due to time constraint, he has
instructed me to carry on with his transaction.
He also instructed me to inform you that,due to banks policy on casheir
checks,the payment will get to you in a US bank cashier check of
$28,000, which is a refund payment of a cancelled order earlier made by my
client. So you are required to deduct the cost of your vehicle $18,500,
when payment gets to you and refund balance $9,500 to our agent ( the
shipper ) for him to be abled to offset shipping & tax charges, and
other cosmetic repair costs.
After payment has reached you and balance sent to shipper, the
shipper's agent will come for inspection, pick up (of vehicle & signing of
title papers), make some cosmetic touches and drive to a prepaid shipper
to be shipped to my customer.
Please confirm this and forward the following informations;
Names:.......
Address:.......
Phone number:........
For payment to be made and send to you as soon as possible.Please,your
honesty, understanding and co-operation will be highly demanded and
appreciated.
Feel free to contact me at 206-202-1005 or drop a message
16241 Cleveland St L Redmond,
WA 98052
Have a wonderful day.
Michael

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Here's another forwarded email we received from Daniel, who fortunately found our web site before he took this deal any further. Note the last line, where "Jeff" the scammer promises that this is not a scam!!! Thanks Daniel.

Greetings Daniel ....
I have forwarded your vehicle information to my client and after evaluation and due to time constraint on the fact that we are runningshort of time. I'm delighted to tell you that my client has recommended your vehicle, with full interest and he has instructed me to carry on with his transaction, Hope the engine and body is in perfect condition?He also instructed me to inform you that payment will get to you in a cashier check of $15,000which is a refund payment of a cancelled order earlier made by my client. Due to company policy this check has to be made out in this amount to you, Because company policyonly allows a refund payment on one cashier check. So you are required to deduct the cost of your vehicle( car) $8,500 when payment gets to you and refund balance $6,500to the Agent ( our shipper ) for him to be able to offset shipping & tax charges, and other cosmetic repair costs.After payment has reached you and balance sent to shipper, the shipper's agent will come for inspection,pick up (of vehicle & signing of title papers), make some cosmetic touches and drive to a prepaid shipper to be shipped to my customer. Please confirm this and forward the following informations;
Names:
Address:
Phone number:
For payment to be made and send to you as soon as possible.
Your honesty, understanding and co-operation will be highly appreciated.


Regards,
Jeff
Just give me trial this is not scam as you believe.
[editor: yeah, right, this little "trial" will only cost me $15,000, and your English grammar ain't so great either!]

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Here's another one from Y. Krimberg in Canada, proving the scam is not limited to the U.S. This one takes the female approach, acting on behalf of her "husband." These folks have plenty of imagination.

My husband has finally accepted your price, he hopes the engine is
serviced and oil changed too .He cant wait to see the car parked
in his garage.
However, My husband made out a certified cashiers check of($25,700)
before he travelled to japan on a business trip,for a previous car
and its shipment charges etc,but it was unfortunately sold.The
amount on the check he deposited for the car is bigger than what
should be paid to you now, so the check is now meant for the total
expenses which includes the purchase of your car,the pick up of the
car from its present location and the shipping charges/other necessary
shipping arrangements. However he has instructed us to carry on with
this transaction. So you're required to deduct the cost of your car
($17,700)and send the balance of($8,000) to my husband via money gram
money transfer to enable him offsett shipping charges/arrangements.
once the transaction is concluded,My agent will be coming for the pick
up of the car from its present location, on an open vehicle and then
drive to a pre paid shipper for shipment,and also conclude other
necessary shipping arrangements.so you dont have to bother yourself
about the pick up and shipping arrangements,while title papers and
other necessary documets will be sent by you via courier to my
customer.
[editor: wait lady, I thought it was your husband - now he's your customer?]

Please Confirm this and provide name,address and phone
number for check payment to be delivered to you via courier .
Thanks and God bless,
[editor: how sweet!]
Regards,

[editor: no name]

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Here's one from "Raymond" (a nice American-sounding name) that's a little different from others we've seen. He wants to send Jim a check for the exact amount of the car purchase, $6000, but wants Jim to forward $5000 of it to his "shipper" who will then give Jim back the $5000 when he picks up the car. Wow. These scammers are so trusting, aren't they? Why wouldn't he think that Jim will just keep the entire $6000 (if it were real) and not pass on the $5000? Since the $6000 check is not real, he doesn't worry about it. All he wants is the real $5000 from Jim. Great catch, Jim. Thanks.

Hi Jim,

I have forwarded your vehicle information to my client and after evaluation and due to time constraint on the fact that we are running short of time. I'm delighted to tell you that my client has commended your vehicle, with full interest and he has instructed me to carry on with this transaction, Hope the engine and body is in perfect condition?. He has instructed me to inform you that payment will get to you in a cashier check of $6,000. You should deduct the sum of $1,000 for a down deposit of the purchase property and wire the balance of $5,000 to our shipper for him to be abled to offset shipping & tax charges, and other cosmetic repair costs. After payment has reached you and balance sent to shipper, the shipper's agent will come for inspection, after the property has been fully inspect, You and the shipper will work down to the bank where the shipper will pay you cash the remaining last payment $5,000. of the purchase. [editor: if these scammers would just take the time to learn English, they wouldn't be so obvious]
Please confirm this and forward the following informations;

Names:.......
Address:.......
Day time phone number:........

For payment to be made and send to you as soon as possible.
Your honesty, understanding and co-operation will be highly appreciated.
Have a wonderful day.

God bless [editor: isn't this a nice touch?]
Regard-

Raymond [editor: I wonder what name he'll use for his next victim?]


A real story from the news
Here is a story of an unfortunate couple who were victims of the African used-car buyer's scam as reported on CBS Evening News. It explains the hands-off stance of banks when these scams happen to their customers. (Story is online at: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/11/01/eveningnews/main527883.shtml)