Online car buying can be a convenient way to find the car you want, but unfortunately, it's also a breeding ground for scammers. These people often pose as sellers and use various tactics to trick unsuspecting buyers into purchasing a car that doesn't exist or doesn't meet the advertised description. It's important to be vigilant and take steps to protect yourself from these scams.

1. Research the Seller

Before making any purchases, it is important to research the seller thoroughly. If the seller is a cars dealer, check out their website, read reviews, and search for their name on other websites to see what others have to say about them. If the seller is a private seller, search for their email address or phone number on other websites to see if they have been previously reported before.

2. Protect Your Personal Information

Be cautious about sharing your personal information online, including your name, address, phone number, email address and other identity document.

3. Avoid upfront payment

There are many scams out there, and car buying scams are no exception. Some scammers will offer a car for sale at an incredibly low price, only to disappear once they receive your money. Be wary of any seller who asks for payment upfront or who insists on using an unsecured payment method.

4. Don't Rush

Take your time when making a purchase, and don't rush into anything. It's important to take the time to research the car thoroughly, including its history, before making a purchase. Be wary of any seller who tries to pressure you into making a quick decision.

5. Check the VIN

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique code that is assigned to every vehicle. By checking the VIN, you can learn about the vehicle's history, including any accidents, repairs, or recalls. Make sure the VIN matches the vehicle you are interested in, and run it through a trusted website, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) VIN Lookup tool.

6. Inspect the Car in Person

Whenever possible, inspect the car in person before making a purchase. If you can't do so, consider hiring an independent mechanic or inspection service to inspect the car for you.

7. Use Secure Payment Methods

Use a secure payment method, such as a credit card, to protect yourself in case of fraud. Avoid using wire transfers or other unsecured payment methods.


Here are some red flags to look out for when dealing with potential scammers:

  1. The seller cannot or refuses to speak with you over the phone
  2. The seller claims to be interstate or overseas and is unable to show you the car in person
  3. The seller wants to proceed with the sale through a third-party company
  4. The seller negotiates on the price and quickly accepts your offer
  5. The seller uses robotic voice messages asking you to email them
  6. The seller makes legal threats to scare you into parting with your money

If you encounter any of these warning signs, it's important to exercise caution. Always try to get in contact with the seller on the phone and plan an inspection to see the car in person before exchanging any money. If you feel that something is not right, you are under no obligation to inspect or purchase the car.

If you are engaged in ongoing communication with a suspicious seller, you can report them to the relevant authorities. You can report the ad by contacting the Only Cars team via our . Be sure to keep records or screenshots of any messages you've received. You can also report scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (ACCC) by calling  or through . Additionally, you can report online fraud to the Australian Government via  or sign up for the .

In conclusion, it's essential to be cautious when shopping for a car online. Scammers are everywhere, and their tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated. By being vigilant and taking the necessary precautions, you can avoid falling victim to their scams and find the car you want with confidence.

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