Scam Alert: Fake Car Sales on Craigslist

Credit: flickr/Alisha Vargas

If you are thinking about selling your car online, especially on Craigslist, be aware of an organized scam that pays you with bogus bank checks.

The insurance fraud watchdog National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), working with law enforcement agencies in the Midwest, has identified nearly 100 such fake car sales on Craigslist, including one in which a couple lost their 2010 Chevrolet Corvette.

Luckily, this couple got their car back when the thieves offered it for sale, also on Craigslist, but you might not be so lucky.

The scammers pay with bogus checks that look real enough to fool the teller taking the deposit.  When the bank figures out the check is phony, after the crooks have taken possession of your car, they remove the funds from your account. Your car is gone, and so is the money you thought you were getting.


Credit: flickr/Alisha Vargas

Scammers are particularly active in states where the vehicle owner retains the title even though there is an outstanding lien. The crooks pressure such sellers to sign over the title, paying for the vehicle with a bogus bank or cashier’s check that looks real.

Whether you are selling a car on Craigslist or via another online site, never sign over a title until you have the money in hand. That means cash in hand, or notice from yur bank that the check has cleared, which could take a week to ten days.  If the buyer objects, consider that a tip-off to a rip-off.

NICB advises anyone trying to sell or buy a vehicle on Craigslist to follow their very specific guidelines.

If you have information about insurance fraud or vehicle theft, report it anonymously by calling 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), or text “fraud” to TIP411 (847411). NICB also has a free mobile app so you can text or email reports of suspected insurance fraud, including medical insurance fraud.

Another bogus scheme to watch out for is the free vacation deal.  Don’t believe it if somebody calls you with an offer of a free cruise to the Bahamas or a free trip to Disneyland.


Evelyn Kanter has been reporting about safety, value and destinations for longer than she cares to admit publicly, first... More about Evelyn Kanter