In the market for a car? Read this first.

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I have recently been in the market for my first car and have made a few enquiries about some ridiculously cheap cars. As a result I've been targeted by this common scam three times!

What happens is that you see an incredible car on eBay (or any other auto site where private sellers can list their car ads) for an incredibly cheap price. The description and pictures are often stolen from genuine sellers as I discovered when I found the same car listed in two places, one saying it was $10,000 the other saying it was $30,000 (of course with the seller selling the car for $30,000 actually allowed seller to come in and inspect the vehicle). You make an inquiry asking if you can come and inspect the car or asking why it is so cheap. In about one day you will receive an email from a scammer that follows a very set template.

The scammer will tell you the car is not in the country because they have moved overseas. They tell you that they are selling it cheap because they cannot sell their Australian right hand drive car in their left hand drive country or something to that effect. They then give a brief description of the car and ask you to reply if you're still interested.

The first time I was targeted by this scam it was quite obviously not legitimate, red flags were popping up everywhere. I decided to reply anyway and ask how I would import the car. Usually in the second email you are told that the car will be shipped by a third party shipping and escrow service who will be the middle-man for the car and the money. They ask you to make a deposit of 50% of the cars value to the shipping company and pay the rest after the car is imported.

I was directed to the site

It has some interesting photos of fake shipping trucks and some generic boat photos. Also notice the fake VeriSign tag. When you click it, a fake pop-up appears with an imitation address bar making it look like you are at the VeriSign site, if you copy and paste the URL into a real browser however you will see that the page is non-existent.

I replied again to humour myself asking for additional pictures of the car including one of the seller next to the car holding a current newspaper. I received no reply.

Only eBay approved escrow services for expensive items. If ever in doubt of the authenticity of the seller request that they send a photo of themselves with the product and a current newspaper to make sure they are legitimate, most genuine seller will be happy to comply.

Most importantly, use common sense. Scammers are always coming up with new ways to fool bargain hunters, some more innovative that other so stay alert.

If it's too good to be true, it probably is. It's a cliché but the truest expressions often are.

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