How to buy:

Buying a car over the Internet is quick, easy and quite common today. Many interested buyers browse online car marketplaces to get an idea about what is on offer and to contact sellers. If you play by certain rules, you will soon enjoy your new car.
Learn more about how to safely buy a car online in Germany.

Be wary of advance payments

German Internet classified ad marketplaces only establish a contact between you as the prospective buyer and the seller. This does not imply that the supplier’s identity and reliability were verified, nor does it confirm that the vehicle really exists. So never pay in advance.

Clues for a suspicious ad:

The tips below are concrete examples of how to react if you stumbled over a potential fraud.

Inspection and hand-over:

Some principles apply to all potential car buyers, regardless of how they found an interesting offer..


Never pay before signing the sales contract and receiving all documents and vehicle keys.
We generally recommend to pay cash rather than arranging money transfers in advance.
Do not make any deposits! Down payments are not customary when dealing over the Internet and...

Concealed vehicle history

18.01.2016 08:49

Whenever you come across an astonishingly inexpensive used vehicle, you should take a very careful look. It might be a vehicle imported from the USA where it has been declared unroadworthy and can no longer be sold.  In some cases, flood or accident damaged vehicles are not salvaged, as required by US insurance companies, but exported to Europe for sale.

These vehicles are inadequately repaired at minimum cost in countries like Poland and Lithuania. For instance, already deployed airbags are not replaced with new ones but merely simulated as being operational by resistors. If worse comes to worst, such defects may pose a fatal risk.

The best protection against fraud is a healthy distrust of imported vehicles with unusual delivery routes. Asking specific questions will allow you to identify any discrepancies in the vehicle history presented. If the latter mentions any damage from accidents, you should demand a detailed description. We also recommend that, before you buy a vehicle, you should have a trusted expert or an inspection station examine such a seemingly good bargain for potential flaws and test-drive it at length.

Specialised on-line portals like provide vehicle history information against payment. All you have to do is enter the Vehicle Identification Number, i.e. the vehicle’s fingerprint. However, there is no guarantee for a complete history.

After advertising the sale of your vehicle, you receive a phone call from a potential buyer. The caller claims to be unable to collect the car personally, suggesting to arrange pickup by a forwarding company. To win your trust, the person suggests to send you a payment confirmation from an online payment service in advance. On the arranged date, the assigned forwarding company has someone pick up the vehicle against a receipt. Subsequently, the fraudster denies ever having received the vehicle and “freezes” the supposedly transferred money. In this way, the fraudster undermines the basically useful buyer protection of the online payment system. However, since the receipt from the forwarding company is not suitable to prove beyond doubt that the buyer did actually receive the car, the payment is usually refunded to the “buyer” after a few weeks. Should a potential buyer propose this procedure, you should actively address the problems involved.

Another variant of this scheme is that the alleged buyer sends a third party to meet with the seller to conclude the contract and/or to take possession of the car. This proxy produces a fake power of attorney and copies of the alleged buyer’s identity papers. The ID papers are usually stolen from a third party. As proof of payment of the purchase price, the proxy produces a fake e-mail confirmation/receipt of the bank transfer. After the purchase, the vehicle is sold to a buyer who has no knowledge of the previous fraud scheme but who cannot rightfully gain ownership of the car and who is obliged to return it to the original owner. This scheme defrauds both the original seller, who never gets the purchase price and the subsequent buyer who cannot obtain the car or who has to return it if obtained. When the private seller is not inscribed in the vehicle papers as the owner, buyers should always be prudent and verify whether they are dealing with a legitimate seller. The seller’s claim that he/she is a commercial reseller and the fact that he/she is in possession of the vehicle papers and keys do not set aside the prospective buyer’s duty to verify the seller’s legitimacy. Buyers should further be aware that a confirmation (printout) of a bank transfer does not mean that the funds have actually been credited to the seller’s account.

Insist that the buyer pick up the vehicle personally and sign a sales contract with subsequent payment in cash. If the person refuses, you should become suspicious and terminate your contact with them.

Repair cost fraud scheme

21.08.2013 13:08

A car has been sold successfully – the transaction went smoothly and without a hitch. Several days later, somebody calls the seller on the phone, pretending to be a friend of the buyer’s. The caller claims that the vehicle turned out to have a defect shortly after the sale and the seller should bear the repair cost partly or fully, blaming the seller for his/her ‘negligence’. The actual buyer is currently abroad, the caller says and asks the seller to transfer a certain amount to a specific (usually foreign) account.

This scheme exploits the seller’s fear of being regarded as a fraud. On top of that, the seller feels guilty about having overlooked a defect despite thoroughly checking the vehicle. The fraudsters operating this scheme meticulously observe Internet sales and contact sellers. The sellers themselves usually know nothing about the supposed defect nor do they suspect a fraud scheme.

You have been contacted by a potentially untrustworthy or dishonest caller? Find help here…

In August 2009, Adrian A. wanted to buy a C Class Mercedes Benz second-hand. The 43-year-old Leipzig teacher had found and bought cars over car sales portals before and was well aware of the required formalities and the risks involved.

On a minor Internet car portal, he spotted his dream car in metallic silver paint. The vehicle was on offer for €5,200 – which is about €3,000 less than the average price for this model. “It did look a bit suspicious, but I didn’t want to miss the bargain and contacted the seller”, Adrian A. recalls his rationale at the time.

Having contacted the seller, he found out that the vehicle was located in the UK and delivery should take place in the UK. However, with the seller visiting in Greece at the time, contact over the phone was not possible.
The detailed and precise description of the sales transaction in very good English reassured Adrian A. that he was dealing with a trustworthy seller.

Right now I am in Athens, Greece […] My car in this moment is in my garage in Billingham. Once again you should know that my car is in a perfect condition[…]. In this moment the car has German registration papers and German license plates numbers. As I told you in my first e-mail, I would like to make this deal face to face, in this way I will give you the opportunity to actually see the car before you buy it. You will be able to makea test drive, run a mechanical check and also check the car papers at a police station.

The best way to make this deal is you to come to England and take the car yourself. […] Anyway, I’ll have to be sure that you’ll come to England and I’ll have to be sure that you have the money prepared for this purchase so I suggest that you go to a Post Office in your city with a friend of yours ( relative ) and use the Western Union Money Transfer Service. […]. Your friend will be the sender of the money and you will be the receiver of the money. […]To send the money through Western Union Service some fees have to be paid. You will withdraw these fees from the price of the car. […]

As soon as the transfer is done show me a copy of the transfer receipt. After I will see that paper, I will be sure that you will travel to England. […] I will wait for you at the Airport with the car and all the registration papers. You will make a test drive, […] and if you will be satisfied, […] we will make the deal. The sales contract will be signed into a Police Office. If you will not be satisfied with the car and you don’t want to buy it then I will give you the money for the plane ticket and also for the Western Union fees[…]. I am more then sure that you will be 100% satisfied with the car. After we will sign the contract, we will go together to a Western Union office for you to pick up the money […].
Complete the Western Union SEND MONEY FORM in this way:
sender name : your friend’s or your relative’s name
sender address : address of your friend or relative
receiver name : here will be your name
receiver address : Manchester, England
[…] I hope you are satisfied with my way of doing business. If you are going to do it, please let me know when you will do it, so that I can make all the arrangements.
Thank you for your time and have a nice day.
Paul Lightowler
P.S. On the link below you have some pictures of me and my family and also a copy of my passport, driving license, insurance card and my Police Id card.

To his email, the seller who claimed to be a police officer attached scanned copies of his credentials, police ID and pictures of his family. “Now I know that the police officer’s ID documents were stolen, but at the time I was convinced the seller was reliable”, says Adrian A. He was even promised to get the flight ticket refunded, if he did not like the car after careful testing.

The request to make a partial advance payment by money order to a branch at the location of delivery is indicative of a scam. In the specific case, the buyer was asked to send the whole amount of €5,200 to Manchester. In addition, Adrian A. was asked to copy the payment slip and flight ticket to the seller as evidence that he in fact intended to collect the car in Manchester.

Putting aside his suspicions about the remarkably low price, the odd delivery arrangements and the exceptional generosity of the seller, Adrian A. held on to the deal. After all, the seller did supply unique identification documents and, being a police officer, should certainly have no interest in running a fraud.

In further emails Adrian A. finalised the transaction, then sent the money order and bought the flight tickets.


Adrian A:
Hi Paul,
Thanks for your detailed email. I think, it is good to handle the purchase as you suggested. I’ll come to Manchester on Monday 10 August. I don’t know whether to fly with Lufthansa (arrival time 14:55) or Air France (13:55) as I haven’t booked any flight yet. Anyway, I’ll tell you. Tomorrow my wife will transfer the money to me to Manchester. I’ll scan the copy of the receipt and send it to you as soon as possible – I hope it works. Is it okay if I bring a contract form of the ADAC (German car club) with me? Have a nice evening
Adrian A.

We will sign 2 contracts , one in English and one in German language (you can bring a German contract from ADAC). I’ll be waiting today an e-mail from you with the confirmation that you have booked the flight and also a copy of the Western Union transfer.
Thank you for your time and have a nice day.
Paul Lightowler.

Adrian A:
at first, thanks a lot for the nice pictures of you and your family. I booked my flight with Lufthansa and my wife transfered the money today. So everything is arranged and I hope that the adventure of buying your car turns out to be fine.
I look forward to meeting you.
Adrian A.

I’ve seen the ticket and the receipt from Western Union. Everything it’s ok. I will buy my flight ticket tomorrow and will send you a copy of it. Can you please confirm your mobile phone number that you will use in United Kingdom?
Thank you,
Paul Lightowler.
P.S. I’m looking forward into meeting you too.

“I really thought that only I personally would be able to collect the money at a bank after showing my identification papers in line with the usual safety standards”, explains Adrian A.

As he arrived at the place of collection – Manchester airport – he found neither the seller nor the vehicle and the money was not in the money service branch. Even the police were unable to help in this clever scam, since the fraudsters were already miles away. “I would never have dreamt that third parties could have collected the money with my forged ID and flight ticket. I did not realise that every other ‘newsstand or veggie shop’ could operate a money transfer and virtually anybody could pay out the cash after a brief glance on the monitor. It simply did not occur to me.” complains Adian A. He lost €6,000 and so far has been unable to recover a single cent.

In the meantime the car enthusiast did buy his dream car, plus he found it on the Internet, however treading cautiously paying heed to the Initiative’s tips. Whenever he now rummages around online car portals and discovers a suspicious ad, he reports back to the customer service. In addition, Adrian A. tells the story to all his friends to make them aware of fraud schemes. He also tells them that the Initiative can help if they are not sure what to do.

In June 2009, Wolfgang B. (44, engineering technician) wanted to buy a Mercedes Benz Vito over the Internet. From the huge selection available in Internet market places he found a very affordable offer. The seller was asking €4,550 for his 8-year-old/146,000km van. As usual in a scam, the Asking price is very low and prima facie all looks above the board.

But from the first contact Wolfgang B. became suspicious. The seller claimed to live in the Netherlands and that his German was very poor but that his vehicle was permanently registered in Germany. In the following, we show excerpts from the original e-mail.

Hallo ,
Ich bin holländisch und mein Deutsch ist schlecht!
Mein Englisch ist besser.
Ich bin Privat (nicht handler).
Das ist Mein privat Auto (1 Hand, Unfallfrei, ohne technische Probleme).
Das Auto ist angemeldet nach Deutschland. Das Auto hat deutsche nummerschilde.
Sie können Englisch schreiben?
Bitte schreiben ihre Name, tel. nummer und platz wo Sie steht!
Ich warte Ihre antworten.
Damian Sterkenburg

The story is unusual but not altogether implausible. Wolfgang B. continued his e-mail correspondence in English (e-mail excerpts in original English). He gave his phone number and asked for a return call to arrange a meeting for the purpose of inspecting the vehicle. As usual in scams, the seller never called back and did not leave his phone number. Instead he continued writing e-mails. “It seems funny today that he almost gave me his whole life story, probably to make me trust him,” recalls Wolfgang B.

Hello Mr B.,
I am from Holland (Alkmaar). The car is located here in Holland.
The car is in good condition. No technical problems and no damage.
There are no visible scratches and no rust (corrosion).
I am 54 years old. We decided to sell the car because this is our second car.
I am the first owner. The car has never been imported (registered) in Holland.
The car has german papers and german registration (das Auto ist angemeldet).
Every 6 months I drive to Germany to do the inspection and to pay the taxes.
We decided not to import (register) the car in Holland because the taxes are bigger than in Germany.
We can bring the car in Germany and meet you. You can see/test the car and if you like it, we can do the deal.
I can not drive to your home, but we can choose meeting point (a city) between us, where we can have this meeting.
Let us know what you think about this.
We can meet next week on Friday or Saturday (morning). When and where do you propose to meet?
We will wait for your message!
Damian & Ingrid Sterkenburg

Wolfgang B. arranged for the vehicle to be brought to the workshop of a friend near Frankfurt, where he wanted his friend to help him check the vehicle. The fraud seller seemed cooperative and agreed to the arrangement without demur.
The scam became obvious in the seller’s last turn in the arrangement. He asked Wolfgang B. to make a safety deposit of €2,500 using the Postbank/Western Union Money in Minutes transfer option (Minuten-Service) to a Frankfurt Western Union office and send a receipt. The seller pledged to do the same using a “Post Bank” in the Netherlands. The seller said he wanted this deposit in earnest of Wolfgang B.’s intention to come to the agreed meeting. “His request made me suspicious. What struck me outright was that unlike in the previous e-mails, suddenly his English was so fluent,” says Wolfgang B.

Hello Mr Bxxx,

We confirm the meeting for Monday at 5:00 p.m. in Frankfurt…
Before we come to Frankfurt, we want to be sure that you will be there and we will not drive for nothing. … There is a risk which we want to avoid.
I spoke with my wife about this and we have a proposal for you. If you accept our proposal, we come to the meeting as we agreed…

My wife will go tomorrow to the Postkantoor (Postbank in Holland). She will transfer 2,500 eur to my name to Germany, Frankfurt. The transfer will be done by my wife to my name and I will take back the money from Postbank in Frankfurt. As soon as thetransfer is done, we will send you the transfer document. This will be our proof that we will come to Frankfurt and meet you. We will have to take our money back, so we will have to come there.

The same thing we want from you. Your wife or a friend of yours can go to the Postbank in your city and transfer 2,500 eur to your name using Minuten-Service Einzahlung. This is a service in Postbank where you do not need a bank account. It is a transfer from a person to a person. The transfer is instant. You will take back the money from Postbank in Frankfurt at the moment when we meet. When the transfer is done, you send us the transfer document as proof that you will come to Frankfurt

This transfer will cost you 100 eur. At the moment when we will be in Postbank, we will pay you back 100 eur. Like this you have nothing to lose.

Inform us what is your decision. If our proposal is not accepted, we will not come to Frankfurt.
We will wait for your message!

Damian & Ingrid Sterkenburg

This is when Wolfgang B. did some researching. On the vehicle market place website he found a link to the Initiative’s home page, where he read up and soon found a similar case. Contacting the ISAK team personally, he made sure that the payment of large sums via Money in Minutes is rather irregular and usually indicative of fraud since the receipt of payment allows the fraud seller to withdraw the money easily and disappear. Wolfgang B. terminated contact and did not go ahead with the purchase. Today he drives a realistically priced Mercedes Benz Vito which he bought over the Internet in line with the How to Buy instructions. When he retells the story to his friends and family he still gets angry at the brazenness of some confidence artists.

In November 2008, Stefan H. [43, master electrician] decided to buy a new car. He wanted a Mazda 2. Indeed he found one quickly in an Internet vehicle market place. A seller offered H.’s dream car, damage-free and not yet one year old with only 8,000km on the odometer for an incredible €7,500.

Too good to be true. Stefan H. contacted the seller by e-mail. He would have rather spoken to him on the phone, but the seller did not give his telephone number and never called back although he offered to do so repeatedly. From the e-mails it transpired that the car was allegedly in the UK. “The seller gave me a real tearjerker of a story, saying his father had recently died and he was now trying to sell his father’s car in Germany as quickly as he could,” says Stefan H. In the following, we show excerpts from the original e-mail (in German):

Guten Tag,
… Der Wagen gehoerte meinem Vater der leider vor Kurzem unerwartet gestorben ist. Er kaufte das Auto vor Kurzem und plante nach Deutschland zurückzukehren. Es handelt sich um ein europäisches Auto mit dem Lenkrad auf der linken Seite…

Das Auto befindet sich momentan in London. Ich habe allerdings schon einenKurierdienst kontaktiert damit es ohne extra Kosten zu Ihnen geliefert werden kann… Den Kurierdienst fuer die Abwicklung des Verkaufs habe ich involviert, da ich mich mit dem Sales und Autos nicht besonders auskenne.

Sollten Sie ein wahres Intresse am Kauf der autos haben, bitte ich Sie mich zu kontaktieren, damit ich Ihnen die Vorgehensweise so erklären kann wie es mir vom Kurierdienst erklärt wurde.

Danke mit freundlichem Gruß, Frank Lichte

This was enough to make Stefan H. uneasy. When he was asked to make a security deposit of 25% of the sales price into an escrow service to have the vehicle shipped to Germany for testing, he was certain that this could not be honest business.

Danke für Ihr Interesse…

Als Nächstes werde ich Ihnen die Vorgehensweise erklären, sowie ich es auch vom Kurierdienst erklärt bekommen wird das Auto zu Ihnen liefern und Sie werden 3 Tage Zeit haben es zu testen

Wenn Sie sich für den Kauf entscheiden, werden Sie die notwendigen Dokumente (Kaufvertrag, Fahrzeugschein und -Brief) von CDS bekommen. Sollten Sie sich jedoch nicht für den Kauf entscheiden, wird die Firma das Auto abholen und es wieder nach London zurückbringen ohne dass Sie extra dafür bezahlen müssen.

Aus Sicherheitsgründen wird vor der Lieferung des Autos durch CDS, ein Safety Deposit in Höhe von 25% des Gesamtwertes fällig. CDS wird den Betrag treuhändisch verwalten bis die Testperiode vorbei ist. Dieser Betrag wird Ihnen zurückgegeben, unabhängig von Ihrer Entscheidung, ob Sie das Auto kaufen oder nicht. Alle Kosten für den Transfer des Sicherheitsbetrags und der Lieferung werde ich übernehmen, so das für Sie nur die Kosten für den Kauf des Wagens entstehen…

Nachdem ich CDS informiert habe, erhalten Sie von CDS eine eMail mit der Rechnung für den Sicherheitsbetrag, Informationen wie Sie diesen abwickeln können sowie eine Trackingnummer. Mit dieser Trackingnummer können Sie sich stehts über den Status der Abwicklung informieren.

Danke und freundliche Grüße, Marco Fahs

A simple web search of the terms “car buying” and “safe” brought Stefan H. to the Initiative’s website, where he quickly found a similar case . “This convinced me that I was dealing with a confidence artist. I sent an e-mail to the seller to indicate I was terminating contact with him and informed the Initiative of the attempted scam so the grifter could be apprehended,” says Stefan H. The information provided on the Initiative’s website helped him prevent a loss of almost €2,000. He tells his story to all his friends and acquaintances to prevent them from becoming the victims of similar fraud. Today, Stefan H. drives [a Seat Ibiza]. He found it in an on-line market place and made a safe purchase in line with the How to Buy instructions.

Occured fraud

18.11.2012 16:47

Con artists come up with new scams all the time but they are easy to detect. In this section, you will find accounts from Internet car shopping portal users telling how they detected scams.

“Stolen ID documents gave me a false sense of security.” View

Avoided fraud

18.11.2012 16:47

Con artists come up with new scams all the time but they are easy to detect. In this section, you will find accounts from Internet car shopping portal users telling how they detected scams.

“He gave me a real tearjerker of a story” View
“Suddenly his English was so fluent” View

Money has left your account

18.11.2012 16:36

Having placed your ad, an interested buyer, generally from abroad, notifies you of his/her intention to buy your vehicle. However, his or her bank’s verification procedure requires that two different amounts of less than 1 Euro each are deposited prior to making the full payment. You are required to confirm the deposit amounts, or the payment code, to the buyer.

  • You have disclosed the above transaction data. After that, an online payment service has debited your account without your knowledge or consent?

What to do:
Immediately call the payment service provider handling the debit operation and block your bank account. In addition, report the scam to the police and file charges.

The money was delivered to the receiver

  • You have arranged for payment by bank remittance or money transfer and the money was delivered to the receiver.

What to do:
1. Contact the online marketplace where you found the ad and ensure that the ad is immediately withdrawn to prevent any further damage.

2. In Germany: Report the scam to the police and file charges without delay either calling personally at your local police office or online. In both cases, keep the required details at hand. Online marketplaces only disclose any details required for an investigation to the prosecuting authorities at request.

3. Keep copies of the correspondence with the seller in your e-mail software and print an additional hard copy.

4. If you are a member of an automobile club, you are normally entitled to use free legal advice in Germany. You will receive valuable tips on how to proceed.

Money paid

18.11.2012 16:35

By bank remittance

  • You have arranged for remitting the money and promptly realise that this might be a scam.

What to do:
Immediately contact your bank and try to cancel the remittance. In Germany, you can have a refund of the money as long as the sum was not deposited into the receiver’s account! Do not give in to the delaying tactics of the alleged seller who promises to remit the money back to you!

By money transfer

  • You have arranged for a money transfer via Western Union or MoneyGram and realise promptly that this might be a scam.

What to do:
Immediately contact the provider you instructed to wire the money and request that the transaction be stopped without delay. If the transaction has not already been paid out, you can have the sum refunded in Germany. Do not give in to the delaying tactics of the alleged seller who promises to remit the money back to you!

The money was delivered to the receiver

  • You have arranged for payment by bank remittance or money transfer and the money was delivered to the receiver.

Find help here 

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