Online car sellers are being targeted in an elaborate scam involving bogus buyers and fake PayPal transactions.
WA ScamNet has received several reports from people who have advertised cars online and received a response from a prospective buyer who supposedly works in a remote location. The scammer states they would like to buy the vehicle without inspecting it, followed by a convoluted story involving poor phone reception and why the seller needs to pay money to them or a supposed courier company.
How the scam works
- A seller advertising their car on platforms such as carsales.com.au or autotrader.com.au receives a response via email from a ‘buyer’ stating that they are happy with the car and the price, and would like to proceed with the sale.
- The scammer claims they are working in a remote location, such as the “North West Shelf in the Rowley Sub-basin”, with poor phone reception so all communication needs to occur via email.
- The scammer asks for PayPal or bank details to proceed with the sale, as well as the pickup address so they can get a quote for their courier.
- Two scenarios may then occur:
- The scammer claims they are unable to make payment due to the poor phone reception. Instead, they say they will pay for the car and delivery fees directly into the seller’s PayPal or bank account – then ask the seller to pay the courier directly on their behalf.
- The scammer says they have accidently overpaid the seller and needs them to refund the excess payment amount. They may provide a receipt as proof of the overpayment.
- In both scenarios, the seller is sent fake PayPal or bank receipts showing that payment has been made. The emails claim the funds are on hold until the seller has paid the courier (in the first scenario) or refunded the overpayment (in the second scenario). The seller makes the payments, but later finds out that they never received the buyer’s money in the first place.
- WA ScamNet is aware that these email addresses have been used in scams of this type:
In another version of the scam, online car sellers are approached by overseas buyers who ask questions about the vehicle, negotiate a lower price and, when the deal is done, ask the seller to open a PayPal account to receive the funds.
The victims receive a fake PayPal email, confirming the funds have been deposited but cannot be released until the seller sends money by wire transfer to a fictitious freight company.
Sellers of motorbikes, caravans, trailers and even horse floats have also been targeted.
How to protect yourself
- Be suspicious if the buyer only wants to conduct business via email. If you are selling a vehicle, encourage the buyer to inspect it on site and try to only conduct the sale in person.
- If you are told that a payment has been sent, log in to your PayPal or bank account directly and check the payment has been received
- Do not agree to forward funds to a third party.
- If you have paid money, contact your financial institution as soon as possible.
- If you handed over personal information, contact ID Care on 1800 595 160
Paypal has informed WA ScamNet that it is aware of the fraudulent emails and has issued the following advice:
- Any genuine PayPal emails advising of the payments into an account will not include caveats regarding additional payment transfers required to third-party organisations
- Customers should check their account balance by logging in securely at www.paypal.com.au and only complete the transfer items once payment is received into the account
- Customers should report suspicious e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org
- PayPal also encourages customers to visit its online security centre for additional tips on avoiding fraudulent scams.