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Buying or selling a used car?Steel yourself against fraud

A middle-aged man in Madison, Illinois, has recently been convicted for defrauding car sellers in two states by giving them counterfeit checks as payment for their cars. The man comes across as an accomplished con artist; he operated with a false ID, which he used not just to cheat these individuals but also to take out vehicle loans later on.

While this man and his cronies have been brought to justice and the victims compensated for their losses, it does make one wonder – what precautions can one take to protect themselves from vehicle fraud, which is a distressingly common occurrence? Following are some safety measures that people would do well to observe when transacting with strangers on the Internet.

Precautions when buying a vehicle online

While it’s true that one can get better varieties and bargains on the Internet than in real life, it’s also true that one seldom knows what to make of people they meet online. The Internet is popular not just with users like you and I, but also with scamsters of all sorts.

While websites take care to remove fraudulent listings and posters to give the genuine users a more enjoyable and trustworthy shopping environment, one cannot be too careful when it comes to conducting high-level commercial transactions with complete strangers.

Following is a list of things to keep in mind when purchasing a used car/vehicle online:

  • Get the vehicle’s history report. Was it ever stolen? Is it a stolen vehicle?
  • Was the vehicle ever embroiled in insurance tussles? What were they about?
  • Checking the vehicle’s insurance papers will also alert you to any inconsistencies about the information on paper and that online (posted by the seller).
  • Does the vehicle have any loans/installments pending in its name?
  • Conduct a background check on the owner.(If this is too much for you, contact an agency that can conduct this check for you.)
  • Avoid any sellers that are too far from you.
  • Meet the seller in person and test drive the vehicle before you take a call on it.
  • Don’t let the seller force/pressurize you in any way.

More things that should make you wary about the vehicle and the seller:

  • A ridiculously low price on the vehicle: If the vehicle is as great as the seller is making it sound, why is it priced so much lower than others of its type?
  • Inconsistent information coming from the seller.
  • Evasive techniques displayed by the seller.
  • Insisting on payment in cash: You are buying a vehicle for $10,000 and the seller wants all of that in cash.Seriously? (While making payments in cash is not unheard of, if it does come to that choose to meet at your local bank.)

Precautions when selling a vehicle online:

So you have zeroed down on where you want to list your vehicle for sale. Now begins the tough part of sifting through the interests you receive from prospective buyers. In addition to the points made in the previous section, a seller should be mindful of the following:

  • Don’t deal with dealers.
  • Don’t deal with overseas buyers (insist on local buyers whom you can meet at your convenience).
  • Be wary if the prospective buyer is willing to buy the vehicle without seeing it in person.
  • Conduct a background search on them.
  • Check their driver’s license and insurance papers.
  • Show your own papers but give no photocopies.
  • Accompany them on test drives(take a friend with you, too).
  • Insist on full payment first, and in one go; no installments business.
  • Wait till the payment is cleared.
  • Hand over the keys and the related documents only to the buyer (refuse to deal with anyone who comes to receive the vehicle on their behalf).

Above all, trust your instincts and err on the side of caution. If you do get scammed despite all the measures, file a complaint immediately. If your purchase goes through successfully, you might want to shop around for auto insurance quotes to get the best deal on your new vehicle. Good luck with online transactions, and stay safe!

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