Don’t fall for a used car scam

BBB recommends consumers be wary when searching for a used car

Used car prices are going up. This means consumers are looking for new avenues to save money when buying a used car. Many are avoiding dealerships and buying from individuals. However, BBB warns that any too-good-to-be true used car deal probably is.

The most common scenario involves a scammer posting an ad for a used car, then asks for the payment up-front. Once he or she gets your money, the scammer disappears, leaving you without a car.

Here are five red-flags that a used car deal might be a scam, taken from MSN Money:

1. An unbelievably low price. Before buying any used car, search prices from a well-known site like, Kelley Blue Book or If you find a used car listed for way below market value, be wary, even if the seller has a valid explaination. Scammers often post eye-catching prices to lure victims, telling the victim that they are going through a divorce, have been deployed or have other exigent circumstances that require a quick sale.

2. An absentee seller. If the car is listed for sale in one city and the seller is in another city or even another country, walk away. Scammers may tell you that they are serving in the military and need to sell their car at home or have another reason for being out of town. Often, they just don’t want you to see their face before they steal your money.

3. Someone else’s protection plan. While many legitimate websites that sell used cars will offer an extended warranty or other buyers protection, someone offering these plans outside of that website is lying. Others might use respected company names to sell you on bogus warranties. Some even go so far as to set up a fake website so you can verify your protection plan.

4. Evolving story lines. Police often ask suspects the same questions several times. This is because liars often have a different answer every time. That’s sage wisdom that applies to all walks of life — even buying a used car. If the seller’s story changes every time you talk to her, then it’s likely a scam.

5. Up-front or cash-only requirements. This is one that applies to any kind of transaction, not just used car sales. If the seller insists on getting money before you get to inspect or drive the car, let alone before you buy the car, walk away. The same is true if the seller will only accept cash or a wire-transfer. Such transactions can’t be traced.