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Online car sales scam (buyer)

Online car sellers are being targeted in an elaborate scam involving bogus buyers and fake PayPal transactions.

Car sellers who placed classified advertisements with legitimate car sales sites have been approached by overseas buyers who, at first, appeared genuine.  Sellers of motorbikes, caravans, trailers and even horse floats have also been targeted.

The bogus overseas buyer asks all the normal questions, negotiates a lower price and, when the deal is done, asks the seller to open a PayPal account to receive the funds. 

They give a number of reasons for urgency of the sale and why they can’t inspect or test drive the vehicle.  These include: purchasing the vehicle as a surprise gift, a family member was in a car accident and needs a car urgently, they are currently working interstate or overseas and will be returning soon, or they work off-shore.

The victims then receive a bogus email, apparently from PayPal, confirming the funds have been deposited but can’t be released until they send money by wire transfer to a fictitious freight company.  One victim reported having an email conversation with the sender of the fake email when they questioned the payment.

These emails are fakes – there is no money being held in a secure account and any money they transfer will be lost.

Victims have reported losing between $500 and $3,000 each to this particular scam.  People selling cars online should be suspicious of potential buyers who may be from overseas or interstate and offer to buy their vehicle without an inspection.  Two or three emails between you and the buyer does not mean you know who they are!

There should be no reason why sellers should have to outlay any money when selling items and we would recommend only dealing with buyers in person.  Wire transfers are cash-based and cannot be traced or retrieved once the money has been collected by the scammers.

Paypal has informed WA ScamNet that they are aware of the fraudulent emails and has issued the following advice:

  • Any genuine PayPal emails advising of the payment of funds into an account will not include caveats regarding additional payment transfers required to third-party organisations

  • PayPal recommends that customers check their account balance by logging in securely at www.paypal.com.au and only completing transfer of goods on such items once payment is received into the account

  • PayPal encourages customers to report suspicious e-mails to spoof@paypal.com

  • PayPal also encourages customers to  visit its online security centre for additional tips on avoiding fraudulent scams.


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