You’re looking for a car to buy on a classified advertisements website, and you stumble upon a great offer.
After having found the car of your dreams at an excellent price, you contact the person who posted the listing. He responds immediately with a photocopy of his ID, explaining how he is the son of the owner who lives in another city in Europe, and that he prefers to communicate via email rather than through the website.
Straightaway he tells you that there are many people interested in the listing and that, as such, the first who puts down a payment of the half price of the car will get it. You wire transfer the money to the owner's bank account (who supposedly lives in another country), and you receive no more information from him. You contact the listing website, which informs you that they cannot be held liable, especially as the transaction took place over email.
- Proof of ownership (such as photos of the apartment, a photocopy of the seller’s ID, etc.) is designed to win over your confidence.
- The seller emphasises the popularity of this listing, making it seem as if you will lose your chance if you wait too long
- Multiple countries are often implicated to cover the fraudster’s tracks. For example: the seller is based in Germany, holds French nationality, and has a Portuguese bank account.
- The website of the so-called seller often usurps the contact details of a real company which in reality has another website or no website at all. Sometimes the address corresponds to another company. A simple search on the Internet with these addresses allows to avoid the trap.
- The seller redirects you to the website of a pseudo transport company: the website is poorly made with often several addresses in Europe. This transport company is of course non-existent or displays usurped contact details.
Advice to evade the fraud:
- Don’t listen to a seller who emphasises the popularity of the listing. Take time to fully evaluate the information about the listing. If a seller pressures you, it can often be for ulterior motives.
- Ask for a detailed description of the car, and avoid sellers who respond in vague terms or evade your questions
- Verify the address and photos of the car. After looking up the caronline, you could find that its address actually corresponds to the address of another seller or private person.
- Be wary of listings that seem too good to be true. Ask yourself if the listing makes sense, and compare prices on other websites
- Don’t immediately trust a photocopy of an ID – it could easily be the ID of the last victim or an edited card from someone else
- Prefer to pay via credit card rather than wire transfer, for wire transfer is irreversible. If the seller asks to use an unsecure but trusted “third party”, be cautious and choose a well-known service that can provide guarantees
- NEVER send a photocopy of the front and back of your ID, or your debit card information
What to do if you have already paid?
- A wire transfer is irreversible, but you should still contact your bank to find out if there are any possible solutions or options of recourse
- If you’ve paid via an alternative payment method, immediately contact the service provider to dispute the payment
- Once the payment has gone through, check if you can receive a chargeback
- File a complaint with the police. If you do not know the name of the fraudulent interlocutor, you can file your complaint against X
- Market places and websites which show advertisements and connect venders and consumers are neither real estate agencies, nor intermediaries who can intervene in a rental contract. They cannot, in principle, be held responsible in case of complaints brought up between the tenant and the owner, unless they were aware of previous complaints and let the listing remain. Consult the website’s general sale conditions to see if they propose any solutions in case of a problem.