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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31 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?

  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 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:


  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?

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

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