what are possible red flags or signs of a scam when buying a car?

What Are Possible Red Flags or Signs of a Scam When Buying a Car?

In the market for a new car and wondering what are possible red flags or signs of a scam when buying a car? With the rise of online sales, the risk of encountering fraudulent deals has surged. A recent study found that roughly 1 in 4 online car transactions contain potential scam elements, highlighting the importance of staying vigilant.

So, what are possible red flags or signs of a scam when buying a car? Key indicators include unusually low prices, sellers who refuse vehicle inspections, vehicles with a murky service history or no history at all, pushy sellers or those rushing the sale, sellers requesting payment via gift cards or wire transfers, and inconsistencies in the vehicle’s paperwork. These signs should raise red flags and prompt further investigation.

Understanding these red flags is crucial in today’s market, especially if you’re considering a high-end car such as a Férarie. Keep reading for a detailed breakdown of each red flag to navigate the car buying process safely and confidently.

Possible Red Flags or Signs of a Scam When Buying a Car

Buying a car, whether online or in person, requires vigilance.  Lloyds Bank reports a 74% surge in car buying scams in the first half of 2023, highlighting the prevalence of this issue1. These scams can drain your wallet and leave you with a vehicle far from what was advertised.  Let’s navigate this landscape safely, whether you’re dealing with online sellers, private sellers, or dealerships.

Warning Signs in the Buying Process

  • Prices That Seem Too Low: According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)2, almost half (46%) of online shopping fraud cases involved people reporting a purchase price that was well below the item’s fair market value. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Sellers Who Rush You: Rushing tactics are a common pressure technique. A study by AARP3 found that 63% of reported scams involved scammers creating a sense of urgency. Real businesses understand that buying decisions take time for consideration.
  • Can’t Meet in Person or See the Item First: Be wary of sellers who refuse to allow an in-person meeting or preview of the item. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)4, in Non-delivery Scams, a common internet fraud, the scammer takes payment but never delivers the promised item.
  • Weird Ways to Pay: Legitimate businesses offer secure payment options. Be cautious of sellers who request payment via gift cards, money transfers, or virtual currencies5. These methods are nearly impossible to trace and recover funds from.
  • Fake Safety Services: Scammers may create fake escrow services or buyer protection programs to appear legitimate. Always verify the legitimacy of such services with a trusted source.
  • Missing or Weird Info About What You’re Buying: A lack of transparency is a red flag. Be cautious if a seller cannot provide basic information about the item, such as a car’s VIN number or a detailed description.
  • Bad Condition That’s Not Mentioned: Deceptive sellers may downplay the condition of an item. Always request a thorough inspection or professional evaluation before finalizing a purchase, especially for expensive items like cars.

Common Tricks Scammers Use

  • Stolen Items: Scammers may sell stolen goods, often with altered identification or background checks. Always verify an item’s origin and legitimacy, especially for high-value items.
  • Paying Too Much On Purpose: In a fake overpayment scam, the scammer might send you extra money accidentally and request the difference back. However, the initial overpayment can be fraudulent and disappear later, leaving you out of pocket.
  • Fake Listings: Scammers can create fake online listings or impersonate real sellers. Be cautious and verify the seller’s identity before making any commitments.

Protecting Personal Information

  • Don’t Share Personal Info: Never share your personal details or financial information unless you’re absolutely certain it’s a secure platform.
  • Check Who You’re Dealing With: Do your research before sharing any information. Consider video calls or verifying contact details to ensure you’re interacting with a legitimate seller.

By following these tips and trusting your instincts, you can significantly reduce your risk of online fraud. Remember, a little research and caution can save you a lot of money and frustration.

Safeguarding Your Purchase

Buying a car is a significant investment, so it’s crucial to be cautious and ensure a smooth transaction. Here are some essential tips to secure your purchase:

Why Checking the Car is Important

  1. Have a Mechanic Look at It: A trusted mechanic’s inspection can reveal underlying issues you might miss. According to a AAA6: American Automobile Association study, unforeseen car repairs can cost an average of $500 annually. A mechanic’s inspection can help avoid such surprises.
  2. Get a History Report: Services like Carfax provide valuable insights into a car’s past. These reports can reveal accident history, flood damage, outstanding loans, and maintenance records. A 2023 iSeeCars report7 found that cars with a clean Carfax history tend to retain more value.

How to Pay Safely

  1. Use Safe Ways to Pay: Opt for secure payment methods like escrow services or certified checks. Escrow services hold your money until you receive and approve the car. Certified checks guarantee the seller has the funds. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), using secure payment methods can significantly reduce the risk of fraud8.
  2. Be Wary of Wire Transfers and Cash: Avoid using wire transfers or cash, especially for unseen cars. These methods offer minimal protection if issues arise. The FTC warns that wire transfers are a common tactic used by scammers in car purchase scams.

Know the Car’s Worth

  1. Look Up Prices: Research similar cars to understand fair market value. This equips you to negotiate a reasonable price with the seller. Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and Edmunds are popular resources for car valuation.
  2. Watch Out for Super Low Prices: Extreme bargains often indicate hidden problems or potential scams. A 2021 Carfax report9 found that cars priced significantly below market value are more likely to have suffered major damage.

By following these tips, you can approach car buying with more confidence. Remember to take your time, research thoroughly, and avoid rushing into a decision.  Prioritizing a thorough inspection and secure payment methods paves the way for a happy car buying experience.

Resources and Reporting

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)10, car buying scams are a prevalent issue, costing consumers millions of dollars every year. If you suspect a scam or have been scammed, reporting it to the right authorities is crucial to stop them and help others. Here’s where you can report car scams and find more resources:

Reporting Suspected Scams

  1. Federal Trade Commission (FTC): As mentioned earlier, the FTC is the primary agency responsible for investigating and preventing scams in the United States. You can report a scam online at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/.
  2. Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB11 is a non-profit organization that helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Reporting a scam to the BBB helps them warn others and track scam activity.
  3. Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): The IC312, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, is the FBI’s division dedicated to online crimes. If you’ve been scammed online, report it to the IC3.

Additional Resources

  1. AutoSMART Consumer Protection Tips: AutoSMART, a non-profit consumer education and advocacy organization, provides valuable tips on buying cars safely and avoiding scams. Visit their website (https://autosmartja.com/about-us/faq/) for essential resources.
  2. Trusted Online Car Buying Platforms: Several online platforms verify car listings and sellers, offering a safer car buying experience. Research reputable platforms before beginning your car search.

Remember: Trust your gut. If something feels off about a car deal, walk away. Reporting scams and using trusted resources can significantly increase your safety and protect you from falling victim to car scams.


What are possible red flags or signs of a scam when buying a car? being told your financing fell through lengthy negotiations charging of excessive fees both a and c

When buying a car, watch out for these warning signs that something might be wrong:

  • Your Financing Falls Through: If someone tells you the loan you thought you had didn’t work out, and now you need to agree to a more expensive loan, be careful. This could be a trick.
  • Long Talks: It’s normal to talk about the price, but if it goes on for too long or gets too confusing, that’s not good. They might be trying to make you tired so you’ll agree to something bad.
  • Too Many Extra Fees: If they’re adding a lot of extra costs that don’t make sense, that’s a bad sign. You might be paying more than you should.

So, if you’re asking which of these are red flags, the answer is both the first one (A) and the third one (C). These are tricks some people use to make you pay more than you should. Always ask questions and be ready to walk away if something doesn’t feel right.

What are possible red flags or signs of a scam when buying a car? Everfi

When you’re buying a car, it’s important to be careful and watch out for scams. EverFi, a resource for learning about finances, can help you spot some warning signs. For example, if the financing falls through suddenly, or if the dealer tries to add on extra fees that seem too high, it could be a scam. Also, if negotiations are taking too long or if you feel pressured to make a quick decision, those are red flags too.

Sometimes, deals that seem too good to be true are actually scams. Maybe the price is super low, but there could be hidden problems with the car. Another warning sign is if the seller isn’t being transparent about the car’s history or won’t let you have it checked out by a mechanic before you buy it.

Scammers might also ask for unusual payment methods, like wiring money or buying gift cards. These methods can be hard to trace, so be careful. EverFi teaches that it’s important to do your research, ask lots of questions, and trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s better to walk away and find a better deal elsewhere.

Wrapping Up – What Are Possible Red Flags or Signs of a Scam When Buying a Car?

Buying a car is a big deal, and it’s really important to do it the right way. When you know what to look out for, you can avoid scams and make sure you’re getting a good car. This means checking the car carefully, knowing its history, and making sure you’re paying in a safe way. It’s all about being smart and careful.

If you ever come across a scam or if someone tries to trick you, it’s important to speak up. Reporting these scams to places like the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center can really make a difference. By reporting, you help stop scammers from tricking more people.

The good news is, when you take the right steps, buying a car can be a safe and happy experience. There are lots of resources and trusted websites that can help you find a good car without the worry of being scammed. Remember, taking your time, doing your research, and being cautious can lead to a great purchase. Enjoy the journey of finding your next car, knowing you’re making smart choices to keep your purchase safe and secure.


  1. https://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/media/press-releases/2023/lloyds-bank-2023/fraudsters-in-high-gear-as-number-of-vehicle-scams-soar.html ↩︎
  2. https://www.ftc.gov/ ↩︎
  3. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2023/fraud-awareness-survey.html ↩︎
  4. https://www.ic3.gov/ ↩︎
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_laundering ↩︎
  6. https://www.aaa.com/autorepair/articles/what-does-it-cost-to-own-and-operate-a-car ↩︎
  7. https://www.iseecars.com/articles/car-report ↩︎
  8. https://consumer.ftc.gov/shopping-and-donating/buying-and-owning-car ↩︎
  9. https://www.carfax.com/value/ ↩︎
  10. https://www.ftc.gov/ ↩︎
  11. https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker ↩︎
  12. https://www.ic3.gov/ ↩︎