Today, online shopping is booming, but unfortunately, so are scams. It doesn’t have to be a risky marketplace. As with any financial task, do your due diligence and be careful.

Verify the seller’s identity

Doing business through a trusted online platform like Surf4cars will go a long way towards protecting you. If you are not using a trusted site, do not close the deal online.

Being a large purchase, buying a car requires a substantial amount of trust from both buyer and seller. The seller must be prepared to divulge all his information and that of the vehicle too. If they are hesitant to do so, your alarm bells should start ringing. You need to know that the seller is who they say they are and that the car is not stolen.

Making Payment

Scammers request anonymous forms of payment so that it is not traceable. As such, you have no recourse. Watch out for sellers who want payment via Western Union, MoneyGram, cryptocurrency etc.  

Even EFTs are not foolproof. People let their guard down when it comes to EFTs, but scams are commonplace and sellers are often defrauded of their cars. Do not automatically trust an escrow site because a seller recommends it.

Verify the banking details. Check that the account holder reflects the business’s name.

Vehicle Information

As obvious as this may sound, do not buy a car without test driving it. If the car you are buying is far away, try and get a trusted friend to test drive it and make sure the seller supplies you with the VIN and a copy of the vehicle registration. 

Ask the seller to have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic of your choice, who will give you an objective opinion.

Check the URL

This is an easy way to detect a scam. If a seller contacts you via email and gives you a link to a website where the car is listed, the site may be a copy. Look at the domain name (URL) and you will be able to determine if the site is fake if the URL is slightly misspelt (for example Ebay.com could be Ebayy.com). Be on the lookout for random letters and numbers after the domain name (such as  Ebay.com/85twrgj49gh42ujd). 

You should also check how long the site has existed. Go to Google and type in “site:” and copy and paste the URL. Look under “results” then select custom range and check a couple of years back (eg. “2014- 2015″). If nothing comes up, it means that the site was created recently, and is probably fake.

Remove the Emotion

Emotion can cloud your judgement. Remember the old saying “if it sounds too good to be true… It probably is”! Be rational and don’t fall for a deal that seems too cheap. The car may be a rebuild – or Code 3 (a vehicle that has been in an accident, and has subsequently been declared unfit for use as a motor vehicle and then rebuilt). The code 3 status must reflect on the allocation and the car must, by law, undergo stringent procedures. Some unethical sellers will try and sell a Code 3 vehicle as a Code 1 (brand new cars delivered by a dealer to the first owner) or Code 2 (a car that’s had more than one owner).

Don’t Rush In

Some scammers will try to rush you to make the purchase by saying that the car will go to an auction if it is not sold within a certain time frame in an attempt to part you from your money and run. Do not let a seller rush you or compel you to place a deposit to hold the car. These are often red flags that a scam is afoot.

The bottom line is that you should transact only where it is proven to be safe and only use reputable sites like Surf4Cars which have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of sellers and buyers alike.

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