Craigslist Car Scams

Selling or buying cars has never been easier thanks to Craigslist, but scams await the unwary. Find out what anyone should know before making an auto trade on Craigslist!

Buying and selling cars on Craigslist cab be a huge money-saver for both parties. Both can expect to make or save more than if they had gone to a dealership. This makes the Auto category in Craigslist’s For Sale section very active, especially in urban areas. With so many people exchanging so many cars for so much cash, it was only a matter of time before the criminal element took notice.

Fraudulent postings are now a common occurrence. The crudest attempts are easily ignored, but some schemes can be more complex. Some scams are operated by clever, experienced con men that have an answer for everything.

Stolen checks, counterfeit checks and bounced checks are costing people their money, cars or both. In one common scam, the buyer accidently pays more by money order or cashier’s check than was asked for and asks you to refund them the overage. If you send them the money before the money order clears the bank, you are braver than you are smart. These money orders often turn out to be counterfeits and any money sent them is lost forever.

Buying and selling cars can be done safely, but these are big ticket items and many sellers have reported at least one suspicious response to a posting. I’m so used to them now, that I’d feel insulted if I posted something for sale and never received my free scam attempt.

To help you identify suspicious buyers or sellers, we’ve put together a list of a few of the warning signs.

Craigslist Car scams

  • Cars are priced far below current market value.
  • The seller claims to be in the military and is stationed overseas.
  • The posting does not include a phone number.
  • The seller will demand that you use an online escrow service of their choice.
  • The person receiving the call is referred to as a “pickup agent.”
  • Payment must be wired to or from another country. Western Union is often requested.
  • The buyer or seller is very anxious to conclude the transaction.

Read more about Craigslist Car Scams:

Craigslist Scams

Report Craigslist Car Scams

Car scammers target Web buyers, sellers

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55 Responses

  1. Andy says:

    Thanks for this wonderful e-commerce site. I am negotiating the purchase of a car that appears lower than the market value. The seller wants me to pay money into a Google Wallet account. I have never used this system before and so I checked on the internet to know the possibility of paying into the account, having control of my money till the good is delivered before releasing the payment. I could not find any info to this effect. Is Craiglist aware of the possibility of using Google wallet? Please respond; thanks!

  2. John Ledesma says:

    I am selling my car on CL. A interested buyer is asking for the VIN number and my full name the car is registered under so he can get a loan for it. Trustworthy or fishy??

  3. Steve says:

    Hopefully its not too late, but don’t give your name. Many people want to run a car fax report on the VIN, which is OK, but if this person has your name, they could potentially request a duplicate title at the DMV, then transfer ownership to themselves. Might sound far fetched but you can never be too careful.

    • alan says:

      Does the tag office not check drivers license information or bill of sale or anything? That could be compared to when someone steals my cell phone and Metro PCS just hooks them up with an account with my stolen phone….

  4. Mike says:

    I have a motorcycle for sale on CL. at 3 AM I get a text message that they like the price and can buy today. They however want me to reply to them via their email address, which means they will now have my email address. Is this suspicious ??

  5. Debi says:

    I’ve had three suspicious calls about a car I have for sale on Craigslist. All three callers, were very quick to call when I posted and then reposted the ad. They all mumbled in a very similar manner. They all offered me the same price ($10,000 when I was asking $11,000). And they all said they would pay cash, and they wanted the car without having seen it. Different names (Bobby, Freddy and Ronnie) and different phone numbers, all supposedly in Portland Oregon. They would even drive the 90 minutes to my town to get it. I decided to hold out for something closer to my asking price, but took their numbers. Later, I called two of them back and neither had a clue which car they were ready to buy, in once case a week earlier, and in the other case, just an hour earlier. They were ready to buy a car for $10,000 but couldn’t remember what kind of car they wanted. One of the guys denied being a dealer. The other said he was a used car dealer but doesn’t have a lot, he just does business out of his home. What’s that all about? Are there people who just buy and sell cars on Craigslist? Are there any scams known that sound similar to this? Do I dare try to sell my vehicle to one of these guys and if so, what precautions should I take?

    • jamie says:

      your post is interesting i am listing a truck for sale now on cl and i keep getting people that are 2 hours away from my area there are nicer trucks for less money in their area) but the weird thing is they are all calling on behalf of someone else with different stories why the buyer can’t come to the phone. He is busy at work, or he does not speak English, the car will be a gift, and now the latest, he is deaf. and none of them asked questions about the car or asking price. I tell all of them i will not sell a car to someone i cannot communicate with so i don’t know what the scam is.

  6. tc says:

    too late, they got me for 1,700. Should of researched first

  7. Kristie says:

    My daughter is too trustworthy and assumed the guy on a “business trip” in Vegas fell in love with her car that she recently decided to sell & buy something new so she put it on craigslist.com. Mr. Vegas offers above the asking price, sends a cashier check from New Jersey, calling from a Virginia area code, when she told me all of this, I panicked! I’m so thankful she told me this before the “shipping” men showed up at her home. We contacted the bank and they will be handling the investigation & confirmed it was fraud. I would love to be able to enforce criminal charges. People that take advantage of others and thieves are disgusting!

  8. Cheryl says:

    In my add, I’ve included the VIN, but one gentleman said that he gets a discount on CARFAX when he has the license plate number. I get mixed messages when I search on this. He doesn’t have my full name.

  9. bobby says:

    Situation- I had a buyer come look at my car, we negotiated a price and he has already paid me for it in cash. He is supposed to come pick up the car, but hasn’t and won’t return my phone calls or text messages. Question- is this some sort of scam in the works? Not sure how since he’s already paid for it, but one never knows these days! Thank you.

  10. Lexi says:

    I unfortunately didn’t research first and had no idea about craiglist scams. I believed the scam because I was so in love with the car it was unbelievable. In my head I was thinking …my first car is going to be great!! Although I thought it had to be a scam I by passed it because I thought I was covered in the money situation. Now I’m out of $1500 that I worked for in a part time job and a car I never was going to get. Why do such people exist? Don’t scammed understand people work hard for their money?

  11. Lexi says:

    Scammers^

  12. kyle says:

    I see manycars for sale that seem to habe the temporary paler license plate. In Texas we call it a “buyer’s tag.”
    Does anyone know if there are scams related to this?

  13. Shelley says:

    I feel like a total idiot. Elaines son died and she is selling his truck FOR SO CHEAP because it reminds her of him. Blahblah and I felt sorry for her until she told me she would ship the truck from Chicago using legitimate shipping company names and eBay auto protection.(which also exists.) I told her my brother Pete lives in Chicago so she won’t have to pay for shipping and he will pay her and pick up the truck. for me. I also told her I would pay 3 times her asking price because the truck is worth so much more. She quit emailing. PS I don’t have a brother. It sucks when you think you’re finally getting a break, a little good luck coming your way. If it’s too good to be true it’s probably not true.

    • steve says:

      did you pay for it? i just fell for the same bs and gave my personal info, not sure if that was all they were after. havent heard anything, they said someone would contact me though. wishful thinking

    • julie says:

      I’m glad you posted this because I’ve been looking at a vehicle and got the sammmme email response about her son dying and it reminding her of him. Knew it was too good to be true!

    • Cal says:

      I just encountered the same thing. A mint condition ’04 Tacoma for $1500 was listed in central Colorado. I sent the seller an email, thinking she had left out a zero. She said the same thing about her son and husband being killed in a DWI accident, and that she was selling to get rid of the memories. I started getting suspicious at this point; I thought she was playing the pity card. Then she started talking about shipping the car from Oklahoma City to wherever I wanted for free, and how we would be insured by “eBay Services.” It’s dissapointing; I thought I found a good deal.

      • Maria says:

        Same deal…her son was killed on a motorcyle & never got to enjoy the truck which was a 2005 Chevy Silverado for $2000.00…also said she would ship anywhere that it was already in the container & the title would be in our name & would use Ebay purchase protection & we would have 10 days to inspect it & the money would not be rerouted to her account only after we accept….we haven’t heard from Ebay yet….would they even handle a fraudulent transaction?

  14. Curtis says:

    I believe a scammer just tried to get me to do a Vin check on my own vehicle on a site that costs money to check the Vin when there are free sites that he could of done it on

    • halfrat87 says:

      I had the same thing happen. Didn’t do it. Gave them the vin# and asked them to do it.
      Did they give you an email address and say they would
      pull it and come see it?

    • Kdog says:

      I just got scam by this. I did the Vin check, then called the number because they stop responding to text and u the call keeps dropping like number is no good. I feel so stupid

      • ted says:

        just got the same scam about Vin check. Found out the text I received from the potential “buyer” who recommended vin check was a robot, so I text the number saying your a ass!! Not a minute later a text reading sounds good, thanks.

    • Brent says:

      Here’s the third email from this scammer…

      “Hello again Brent,
      Fine, that sounds good to me. I’d just really appreciate it if you can get report and that you get it from lookupvinreport.com because I’d like to repay you for it if we make a deal, and they’re cheaper than carfax, and you know how it is, every dollar you save counts. I don’t want to get it myself because if it’s bad then I just wasted my money, but you can still use it however it turns out. I would like to see car tomorrow if you are free (and if everything is ok with car report).
      Looking forward to hearing from you, Robert”

      Got him a free report but he said he didn’t trust that one. SCAM. Be aware! Question everything these days. Beware of the wolves!

      • Tiffany says:

        I just had someone try to get me to do the something at same cite for a car I put on Craigslist today. im glad I decided to investigate before paying the stupid 13 dollars that I really don’t have. I am sure that it’s a scam that is being committed daily. I’m forwarding this information to the authorities. Thanks for sharing your comment and protecting the few dollars I have to my name.

      • Pam says:

        This just happened to me and I fell for it. What do they get for the $20 I spent on report?

        • Patrick says:

          Your credit card numbers unfortunately, they set up these websites themselves to steal your info. All legitimate sites have an s after http. If you notice there site doesn’t

          • K says:

            This just happened to me but I googled the site he mentioned and found it online with https. I went ahead and pulled the report because it was cheaper than carfax….SIGH!

      • MKT says:

        This happened to me as well. Just had someone text message me actually to the following address: turn.vehiclereporting.online?turn I even tried to open the link and couldn’t find any website. Still can’t figure out how the scam actually works, they couldn’t have infected my phone or something by opening an http address, could they? They also gave a very bogus appearing email address, just a bunch of random letters which is what ultimately tipped me off.

        • stimmy says:

          Some ahole tried to pull the same on me. I didn’t fall for it, but I wondered if he could just create his own website, direct you to it so you pay him a fee, then he would just forward a free report on your car that he got online?
          If that’s what the scammers doing, it’s probably not even illegal.
          If they get enough suckers to pay $15 or $20 each, they could make some money.

      • Eli says:

        Wow I got the same message. I’m glad I did some research. What they sent me: Hi again.
        I was thinking about $6000, considering the car is as good as it looks on pictures. I’d just really appreciate it if you can get full history report and that you get it from lookup****** because I’d like to repay you for it if we make a deal, and they’re cheaper than carfax, and you know how it is, every dollar you save counts. I don’t want to get it myself because if it’s bad then I just wasted my money, but you can still use it however it turns out. I would like to see car tomorrow if you are free (and if everything is ok with car report).
        Looking forward to hearing from you,

  15. Ursula Tull says:

    I put my car on CL and somebody from Texas is interested in buying it. He will come to South Carolina and drive it back.
    He only saw the photos, has the Vin number and my license plate is showing with my number. Should i delete my posting and start over again.
    The ad is only on for one day. How can I protect myself that he is not a scammer ? He wants to call me today. I have a name but could not check him out on the internet.
    ULT

    • BrianL says:

      Just ask him for a deposit – 10%. If he’s serious, this shouldn’t be a problem. Make sure the payment clears before inviting him to come get it. When he arrives, make sure the remaining payment is a money order or cashier’s check.

      • Gary says:

        NO! NO! Tell him when he shows up to make sure he has CASH. Do not take any type of check or money order. DO NOT!! CASH only- THe green stuff. You can meet him at a bank branch and he can cash his check and pay you with cash. If you accept a check or money order and they turn out to be a fake, you will have only gotten 10% of your price for your sale

        • stimmy says:

          I had a scammer send me a FAKE “certified” check. By the time my bank would have notified me it was bad, the scammer would be gone with the money and the goods and the bank would have taken the money back from MY account!

  16. James says:

    Today I posted a truck on CL. Within 2 hours I received a text asking if ghe truck was still for sale. He said he was in the military and was not able to use phone. He has contacted me by email. You asked a few questions regarding condition of the truck. Asked if the price was firm. I informed him that we’d already came down four thousand on the price. Wats the truck but wants to pay through PayPal does that throw any red flags? He mentioned that he would have someone come out to pick up the car and ship it to his home which I found out he said was in Hawaii from California

    • SparklePlenty says:

      We just got hit with that identical scheme, except it was a motor scooter we were selling, rather than a truck. Eventually, after agreeing on a sales price, the supposed soldier sent what looked like a “You’ve received an instant payment from so-and-so” email, purportedly from PayPal. Supposedly that instant payment was being held in abeyance at PayPal until I sent a smaller amount, i.e., the shipping cost + the cost of a moneygram, so as to arrange for the scooter’s shipment. I noticed a few words in the fine print were spelled wrong or were incorrect choices for an English speaker. When I logged into PayPal, I couldn’t find hide nor hare of any tentative, pending payment. So I called PayPal’s fraud line, read them the email, and was assured it was a complete fraud. At their request, I forwarded it to their fraud unit for investigation and prosecution.

    • Chad says:

      I received this same scam in response to my CL ad. It seems like any responses within the first few hours of my postings on CL are scams. Very frustrating!!

    • Stacy says:

      All these comments above have been sent to me…ugh scammers!

  17. Josh says:

    How long should wait to make sure it’s not a fraud check?? Because banks do cash fraud checks should I wait about 2days

    • David says:

      If you wait until the check clears the system they will know if it is fraudulent or not. For more immediate results take the money order/cashiers check to the bank it was drawn on. They can immediately pull up the account and see if it is legit or not. The check will show who it is drawn on down at the bottom.

  18. Kory says:

    So I have a guy who is interested in buying my car he says he’s in the military and will send a car hauler to pick it up but says I’ll have all the cash before signning the tittle off and wants to do this threw pay pal does this sound like a scam?

    • Missie says:

      I posted a truck on CL today. The same thimg happens to me. Within an hour I had two respones that seemed fishy. The first on was exactly as your experience. The second the buyer asked for my vin number to make sure the title was ‘clean’. Red flags for me immediately. After doing some research I am sure they are scams. Paypal is a roll of the dice. Money order, Cashiers check, or good old fashoned cash us the way I have decided to go.

    • Alan says:

      In my experience, the email showing payment through ‘Paypal’ will have all the right logos, pictures, fonts, etc, but if you look carefully at the URL’s on the links, some of them will be to some other website. Presumably a clone of Paypal. I would imagine that when you follow the link, it asks you for your Paypal info. If you enter it, bingo presto! They now have your paypal account password.

      • Ruben says:

        Hi Alan, I have a Disco on cl now and the person is asking I run the vin on a couple sites they sent me, I replied that the vin is on the site for them to check out but they said they don’t feel comfortable running it since they aren’t the owner, do you think its a scam?

  19. anne says:

    I’ve been searching for a car about 4 weeks. My advice to you is, don’t trust any ads that do emails, military based ones, and ones that say they arent the seller. When buying a car, i suggest do it face to face. It takes time to find a car, but oatience is virtue.

  20. Scott says:

    Got a call about a car I’ve listed, Buyer seemed very enthusiastic, and wanted to purchase the car this week. She asked if I had any history document on the car. I told her I’d be glad to run a CarFax for her. She immediately responded that instead of that, go to a specific URL, request a Vin # report and email it to her. I followed the link which was a page for VinChecked. All it asked for was VIN number and my zip code, and once it said the report weas generated, needed my credit card for a $12.95 charge. Since this was a fraction of CarFax I was temped, but did notice the URL of the site was ‘http’ which is an unsecure site, and not ‘https’, which is a secured site. I do know you never provide this kind of information to an unsecured site, so I went back to CarFax before my buyer soured on the deal. Immediately sent her the CarFax with the reason I did not complete the Vin Checked report – explaining it was most likely a fraud to get the credit card number. Amazingly, her enthusiasm for the car, and the immediacy of wanting to buy it right now disappeared. I followed up twice, and only got very short, non-committal responses. I am now thoroughly convinced this was a scam from the beginning.

    • teepee says:

      yep i got the same request to go to the vin checked website. Most probably a cc scam to get your number or they own the website and are trying to drum up biz….ugh

  21. Bill says:

    Wow, I’m selling a car and got 6 text messages from people out of state asking me to email info to them. I couldn’t understand why I was receiving out of state texts. Thank you for all the comments as to what was going on.

  22. Patrick says:

    Test drove the car and everything is good except the seller is the father of the owner. His address on his drivers license matches her address but a different last name. He showed me a power of attorney document but how do I know its real? Could he fake a nortary symbol? Does this seem like a scam? Its a red flag but the story sounds legit.

    How can I verify this isn’t a scam? Would the car turn up stolen after I buy it? He said he would go to the DMV to transfer the title.

    • Alan says:

      That’s a tough call. I bought an old diesel Mercedes once from a guy through an intermediary, and it turned out fine. Probably shouldn’t have, but it turned out ok. I did do a fair bit of research before handing over the cash. Talked to the actual owner on the phone. It helped that caller ID showed his name, which matched the registration of the vehicle. He was a military guy that had gotten stationed overseas, and left one of his old cars with a friend to sell. I asked him about a hundred questions about the car, a lot of it detailed stuff that there’s no way he would have known unless he had driven and worked on the car himself extensively, which he did. I was extremely confident that the guy on the phone was definitely the guy who had been driving and working on the thing for a few years. Still could have turned out bad.

  23. ken says:

    What if I cash the check that someone sends me to purchase my car, if its fake, what will happen to me!

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