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Buying a car online? Don’t get scammed

Published January 25, 2013
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Q: How can I safeguard against scammers when buying a car from Kijiji or other online sites?

A: Fraud prevention tips from Kijiji:

Ensure all transactions take place locally and in person.

Never send or wire money, either by mailing a cheque or using payment services like PayPal, eBay Motors Purchase Protection Program, Bidpay, Western Union or Money Gram, etc.

No protection programs or secure payment systems exist for Kijiji items. Any emails or websites referencing such are scams.

Never click on an email link to access your Kijiji account. The Kijiji sign-in page should always show up as being secure in your web browser.

Make yourself aware of common scams. Don’t believe the promise of large sums of money for your help in any task.

Don’t give out personal or banking information.

Use common sense. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Eric Lai adds:

Meeting in a public place, such as a coffee shop, is recommended when exchanging funds, but I’d personally be wary of a seller who doesn’t want you to see the vehicle at their work or residence on initial viewing.

Before paying, ask to see the vehicle permit and the driver’s licence of all sellers listed on title. Legally, all named owners must sign to sell the vehicle; and verify the signature against that on the licence. Don’t accept a pre-signed ownership without the owner(s) present. Be wary of identification other than an Ontario driver’s licence, which you can compare to your own to authenticate. Fake photo I.D. is surprisingly easy to obtain — complete with holograms and other security features. Such items are sold legally as “novelties” as they contain subtle differences compared to the real thing. Hence, out-of-province I.D., which most of us are probably unfamiliar with, is popular among fraudsters.

Scam artists often target sellers by asking you to ship the item overseas and paying with a foreign bank draft that “accidentally” overpays you by several thousand dollars. To make things right, they ask you to wire them the difference (even though they paid you by a bank draft, not wire service) and “generously” allow you to keep a few hundred dollars “for your trouble.”

But the real trouble arrives when the fraudulent cheque is returned by your bank in a few months, leaving you with no item, and on the hook for shipping fees and the cash you “refunded” via the wire service.

Certified cheques or drafts from Canadian banks can also be forged (as can money for that matter). If in doubt, have your bank call the issuing financial institution to verify authenticity of certified cheques/drafts before releasing goods.

Buying or selling something shouldn’t involve a complicated song-and-dance about why you can’t meet in-person and close the deal. Serious buyers and sellers don’t play games. To avoid problems, neither should you.

Email your non-mechanical questions to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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