How to Avoid Online Car Buying Scams


The idea of being able to buy a car from the comfort of your home is quite nice, but there are also inherent risks. Just like most of the online world, not everything you see is real and there are people out to make money by scamming Canadian car buyers. That’s why it’s important for you to know common online car buying scams so you don’t become a victim. In this article, we’re going to go over common online car buying scams and the pros and cons of buying a car online. 

5 Of The Most Common Scams

1. Title Washing

Title washing is what people do to try and hide damage, issues or the history of a vehicle. This is why it’s so important that you get a vehicle history report of any vehicle before you sign the dotted line. Even if you have to pay for the report you should do it as it can save you plenty of money and hard ache in the long run. Carfax is a great resource for any Canadians looking to run a vehicle history report. 

2. Identity Theft

In this case, the scammers are looking to scam you out of more than just your money, they want to attempt to steal your identity. They do this by asking for sensitive information like your social insurance number, banking info and birthdate. Typically, they’ll make up an excuse for needing this information in order to sell you the vehicle but this isn’t necessary. It’s good practice to not share any information with the seller other than your name, email and phone number. If you’re looking to buy from a dealer, ensure that it’s a licensed and legitimate dealer. 

3. Dealer Pretending to Sell Privately

This scam is due to a dealer trying to avoid going through the required regulations of car sales, often because they’re trying to hide something about the vehicle. This is another reason that doing a vehicle history report is so important because in this scenario the seller is trying to hide the vehicle title. It’s important to do your due diligence so you don’t end up buying a vehicle with a salvage title. 

4. Fake Online Ads

When you’re browsing Kijiji or any other vehicle listing website, one of the biggest red flags is if they don’t provide the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). If you aren’t able to prove that the vehicle in the listing actually exists either by seeing the VIN number or seeing the vehicle in person, NEVER send money. It’s more common than you’d think for scammers to post vehicles on listing sites when they don’t have that vehicle. Even if the vehicle does in fact exist, you should still run a vehicle history report to ensure it doesn’t have damage or illegal history. 

5. Requesting a Wire Transfer or Gift Cards

A common trick scammers like to use is having wire transfers sent or gift cards purchased with no vehicle in return. This is a popular method of scam because both of these are incredibly difficult to track. This will leave you in a position without a car and without the ability to get your money back. Any time a seller brings up the idea of gift cards or a wire transfer, be prepared to walk away as it is most likely an attempted scam. 

Pros of Buying a Car Online

  • Usually saves time because you’re not going from dealership to dealership
  • Unlimited shopping opportunities, you’re not limited to a dealerships car lot, there are thousands of online car listings to choose from
  • No sales pressure from dealerships, you can browse from the comfort of your home with no outside noise

Cons of Buying a Car Online

  • Big online retail websites don’t usually negotiate on a price
  • Buying privately you run the risk of getting scammed
  • Lenders may not approve you for financing on the purchase of a privately sold vehicle, if they do, you may pay a higher interest rate

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