Avoid Online Scams

Beware of online scams

Online scams routinely target Ontario car buyers through fake ads found on popular websites such as Kijiji, AutoTRADER, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

Ads appear to be placed by private sellers, but when the car buyer contacts them they’re told:

  • The seller has relocated and the car is in storage (or someplace similar but inaccessible)
  • The seller is actually a dealership located in the United States.

The problem is, the seller or dealer and vehicles aren’t real. Scammers can go to great lengths to deceive car buyers by creating professional looking dealer websites with extensive inventory and customer testimonials.

When purchasing a motor vehicle in Ontario, you are only protected by Ontario’s consumer protection laws, when you buy from an OMVIC-registered dealer. Also, unfortunately, investigations and prosecutions related to online scams are quite difficult to conduct.

Signs you may be dealing with a scam artist

  • The advertisement is posted locally, but the vehicle is located a long distance away.
  • There are excuses why an inspection of the vehicle isn’t possible (for example, the seller has relocated so the vehicle is located in a storage etc.).
  • The seller agrees to ship the vehicle to you with a money-back guarantee. Don’t trust that the seller will follow through with this promise or that a trust or escrow account is real
  • Pictures don’t reflect the season or the location. Look for signs in the ad picture that indicate the vehicle’s location, like leaves on trees or snow (when there shouldn’t be any), palm trees, tropical plants.
  • What licence plates are on the vehicle in the pictures? If none, why not? When in doubt, ask the seller to provide a specific photograph of the vehicle, perhaps one with that day’s newspaper in it.
  • The vehicle is priced below market value. If a price seems too good to be true, it’s a warning, not an opportunity.

Car-buying tips

To avoid falling victim to an online car-buying scam – consider the following:

  • Beware of vehicles that cannot be viewed or inspected prior to purchase.
  • Travel to see a vehicle located remotely—don’t rely on pictures or a convincing website. If a buyer can’t travel to see the vehicle, hire an appraiser or mechanic to inspect the vehicle. He/she can ensure the vehicle actually exists and the seller is who they claim to be.
  • Check with state or provincial regulators/authorities to ensure a dealer is legitimate and properly licensed.
  • Purchase a vehicle history report for the vehicle—don’t simply rely on a report provided by the seller, it can be altered.
  • Don’t wire money or provide a credit card number without first doing all homework.
  • Beware of sellers who want to close the deal as quickly as possible. Take the time to think the purchase through, ask questions and consult with a professional.