How the scam works: This is actually not a car dealer scam, but it is a huge epidemic. There it's a growing eBay scam too, so it warrants inclusion in our list. Sometimes the scammers steal images from a car dealer and pose online as the car dealer. But mostly, these internet scams appear online as the seller of a used car. They place ads on Yahoo Motors, AutoTrader, Craigs List, eBay Auctions, eBay Motors, every known vehicle and motorcycle classifieds site on the internet has been hit. The scam begins with you buying a used car (or other product) online and you see a hot BMW or Mini Cooper, or Camry, or Mercedes, or Harley Davidson whose selling price is much lower than other listings for the same item. So you ask the seller a question. The seller replies with a "Dear Sir" form letter, rarely do they mention your name, it's all scripted. It usually has poor grammar and spelling too, and the seller claims to be in Europe and cannot keep the car. Via email, they have you outside the eBay safe harbor, or whatever site you are using. He wants you to use a particular 3rd party escrow site, "he's used them many times already." Unknown to you, he just created that fake escrow site only a few days ago and he's lying. He is offering to pay shipping for the car! Do you know how much shipping is on a car across the U.S.? It's usually about $900. That's a big Red Flag. The "seller" has setup that fake escrow web site that looks better than most bank web sites and is about to steal your money. They convince you to register on the "escrow" site, and you get payment instructions to Western Union or MoneyGram the funds to the escrow company, then you never see your money again. No undo on the Western Union either, once your cash is wired, they can pick it up anywhere in the world in minutes, usually in UK, Spain, Romania, Russia, Netherlands, Europe. There are many twists to this scam, they often trick you by telling you they are signed up for escrow with Yahoo Motors, or eBay or Square Trade, none of which in reality do escrow or collect money for cars. You then receive official looking spoof phishing emails that appear to be from Yahoo, Square Trade, eBay, etc., with instructions on how to pay their "payment agents" via Western Union. The scams have the same goal, to trick you into thinking you are sending thousands of dollars to a trusted escrow company. This scam is so prevalent that from 2003 to 2004. These sites pop up at the rate of at least a dozen per day, with thousands of scam listings and auctions running all over the internet at any time. Now that you know what to look for, they are easy to spot.
How to avoid the scam: NEVER EVER use cash wiring services such as Western Union, MoneyGram, E-gold, etc, to pay for purchases online. They are all dangerously unsecured networks. Don't use any escrow other than Escrow.com, recommended by eBay, and don't ever believe even the most realistic looking emails sent to you, as legit institutions would never send you sensitive payment instructions, you would login to get instructions. Never use the site recommended by the seller.