Autotrader: Watch out for these common scams if you’re selling your car


Quick facts about common scams when selling a used car  

  • Fake cashier’s checks are becoming more common. Before you accept one, call the issuing bank to verify the check.
  • Indeed, most people writing personal checks aren’t scammers, but we recommend not accepting one from a car buyer in most cases.
  • Don’t fall for the shipping scam, where a buyer sends you more money than the car is worth for supposed shipping.

Selling your car can be stressful. To lessen the stress, we’ve listed a few scams you may run across when trying to sell your car yourself. If you’re aware of these common scams, you’ll be able to spot and avoid them and devote your attention instead to selling your vehicle.

Related: How to sell your car when the lender holds the title

Fake cashier’s checks

With improving technology, fake cashier’s checks are becoming more common. Even experts have trouble spotting such checks. Our suggestion: Call the bank identified on the check to confirm its authenticity before handing over your car’s title and paperwork. And don’t call the number on the check since that could be part of the scam.

Instead, search online for the bank’s phone number and call to verify the check. Cashing the check at the issuing bank is also advisable to ensure funds become available immediately.

Read: How to negotiate with car dealers to get the car you want at the best price

Personal checks

Very few people write checks anymore. Indeed, most people writing personal checks aren’t scammers, but we still wouldn’t accept one from a car buyer in most cases. Personal checks can be canceled after they’re written, meaning the buyer can keep the money and the car. Plus, there’s no way to verify that the buyer has the funds in their account. If you accept a personal check, wait for the funds to clear, and be sure the money appears in your bank account before signing over the title.

If the buyer has a problem with that, suggest a cashier’s check (using the precautions above), or find a different buyer.

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Fake shipping scam

An increasingly popular scam involves a potential buyer insisting you help them ship a seller’s car overseas or across the country. In this scam, the buyer sends a check to the seller for more than the car’s price. The seller is then expected to send the extra money to the buyer’s shipper.

But after the seller wires the money to the shipper, the check turns out to be fake, leaving the seller out whatever money they sent to the supposed shipper.

See: A guide to selling a car to a friend or family member

Tips for selling a car

Of course, this isn’t a complete list of scams. As we discover more scams, scammers get more creative and develop new ways to take our money. So we have a few tips to offer if you’re selling your car.

You can avoid any scams by using Autotrader’s Private Seller Exchange marketplace, where sellers can list cars and buyers can purchase them all in a secure environment. The service verifies all identities and handles all paperwork, including title and funds transfer.

If you choose to handle the transaction and sale not using the marketplace, follow these additional tips.

  1. Don’t sign over anything, especially the car title, until the money is in your account and any payment is verified.
  2. Be sure to talk to the buyer over the phone or in person to establish a rapport.
  3. Most importantly, walk away if a deal feels like it isn’t right. There will always be another buyer, a legitimate one, for your car.

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