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 

Buyer contact

18.11.2012 16:34

After you post your ad, you receive the SMS, “contact us” form or e-mail of an intermediary, typically based outside Germany, asking you to contact them.

Phone offer to procure a potential customer

  • They offer to procure interested buyers – you are to pay a fee (flat or depending on the purchase price) to the intermediary. The fee is invoiced before you actually sold the vehicle.

What to do:
Do not accept the offer and do not contact the company. If in doubt, use the “contact us” form or phone the online marketplace or your automobile club and ask whether they know the company and can confirm its trustworthiness. Do not pay any invoices or payment reminders, unless you actually sold the vehicle to the procured buyer.

You have received a contract for intermediary services

  • You have received a contract covering not the successful procurement of customers but inclusion in a database

What to do:
Do not sign a contract which requires payment of the fee regardless of the successful procurement of a customer. Carefully check the provider’s Terms & Conditions. If in doubt, do not accept the offer and do not contact company or return the contract. Use the “contact us” form or phone the online marketplace or your automobile club and ask whether they know the company and can confirm its trustworthiness. Do not pay any invoices or payment reminders, unless you have signed the contract and actually sold the vehicle to the procured buyer.

Disclosure of account details and test deposits or code is requested

  • 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 paid to your account prior to making the full payment. You are required to confirm the total of the deposits, or the payment code, to the buyer.

What to do:
Never comply with the request and neither disclose your account details nor the amount of any small deposits nor a code!

  • You have disclosed the account details / test deposits / code?

What do do:
Open a PayPal account without delay (if you have disclosed the test deposits) or a click-and-buy account (if you have disclosed the code) and link it to your bank account. A bank account cannot be used for more than one payment services account. If you are unable to create a link because your account is already connected to another payment services account, immediately report to the payment service provider and block your bank account for the debit transaction.

  • Money has left your account?

Find help here 

Notary’s fees are required up front before vehicle delivery and payment

  • A prospective buyer, often from abroad, is interested in buying your car and wants to send a motor vehicle expert to see and take delivery of the vehicle. Upon inspection, the expert is to pay for the vehicle in cash. The bill of sale (sales contract) needs to be notarised. The seller is asked to remit the notary fee before the sale, which the prospective buyer promises to reimburse with the sales price.

What to do:
Never comply with any requests of payment of notary fees before you deliver and receive payment for your vehicle, even if the buyer promises to reimburse you. If unsure, contact your Internet car sales portal or your automobile club either by using the on-line form or over the phone and ask whether they know the prospective buyer and whether the offer can be deemed to be serious.

  • You have made a payment?

Find help here 

Buyer threatens to sue for damages

  • You are in contact with a buyer who insists on buying the vehicle and threatens to claim for compensation.

What to do:

  1. Do not let them intimidate you!
  2. Do not sell your vehicle if you do not believe in the deal.
  3. Keep the entire correspondence with the buyer in your e-mail programme and also as a printed copy.
  4. Automobile club members are usually entitled to get legal advice free of charge. Use link to obtain helpful tips on what to do next.

You suspect the “prospective buyer” of planning an insurance scam.

  • You have already given the suspicious prospect your insurance data and he/she has already obtained your licence plate number, either directly from you or from the photos of the vehicle posted on the Internet.

What to do:
If you have suspicions, inform your insurer. They will monitor all incoming claims more closely to prevent the insurance fraud.

Repair cost fraud scheme

Several days after a car sale, 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.

What to do:

  1. Ask for the caller’s name, personal details and phone number.
  2. State clearly that you do not think the caller is acting on behalf of the buyer. If in doubt, ask for details of the transaction which only the buyer and you know about and demand to be shown evidence of the caller’s authorisation. An aggressive reaction to your questions should make you even more suspicious.
  3. Try to contact the buyer immediately to verify the caller’s story! Do not transfer any money, unless you have spoken with the buyer or an absolutely trustworthy person representing the buyer. You should never transfer money to an unknown recipient.
  4. Think twice about transferring money to a foreign bank account. Such transfers are usually irreversible.

You have already transferred the money? Find help here…

Seller contact

18.11.2012 16:33

Contact & inspection

  • The seller insists on e-mail communication only and is not available over the phone.
  • The seller continues to refuse a test drive or vehicle inspection for various reasons.

What to do:
Play it safe and give up on this offer. Better pass on a supposed bargain rather than incur unnecessary risks. Report the ad to the online marketplace using the link provided and tell them your experience.


Payment terms

  • In the course of the transaction, the seller insists on advance or down payment.
  • The seller insists on involving an alleged escrow service or shipping company to handle the purchase.

What to do:
Never remit any money or make a down payment! The normal procedure is delivery versus payment, i.e. you pay when you receive the vehicle and vehicle certificates! Online market portals in Germany do not offer escrow services – Exception: the eBay Motors escrow service.


Escrow service / shipping company

  • The seller insists on involving an alleged escrow service or shipping company to handle the purchase.

What to to: 
Since Internet car marketplaces are not involved in the actual purchase process, they cannot offer such service. The “stop escrow fraud” group has compiled a list with known fraud sites and keeps it up to date. You can find an overview of known escrow fraud sites including their screenshots here!


Confirmation-e-mail from the Internet marketplace

  •  The Internet marketplace confirms the legitimacy of the vehicle and the seller’s bona fides.

What to do:
No Internet marketplace verifies the data of its users. Break off contact with the would-be seller and do not conclude a sale. Use the link provided in the ad to report this ad to the hosting Internet marketplace and give an account of your experience.

Checking vehicle reports and stickers

  • The seller affirms that the data about the vehicle condition is correct, referring to the documents provided (e. g. service history booklet, exhaust emission test report and general inspection report) and the stickers on the vehicle.
  • However, after inspecting and test driving the vehicle, you are in doubt about the correctness of the information.

What to do?
Check if all important documents are available (e. g. Part I and Part II Registration Certificate (registration certificate and ownership certificate), exhaust emission test report and general inspection report, service history booklet). Check the service history booklet. Was it updated regularly and is all information comprehensible? It is very important that you check the general condition of the vehicle. Is a recent general inspection reasonable at the present moment? If you are in doubt, contact the technical inspection agency (e. g. TÜV, GTÜ, DEKRA) which inspected the vehicle according to the documents provided. Alternatively, go to a workshop and have the car’s condition assessed by an expert. The stamp in the registration certificate or the vehicle report shows where the vehicle has been assessed. Moreover, you will find the contact data of the workshop which carried out the last inspection in the service history booklet. GTÜ Gesellschaft für Technische Überwachung mbH even enables to check over the Internet whether or not a vehicle was inspected by GTÜ. For the GTÜ search, please click here…

Checking the odometer reading

  • The seller claims that the mileage is correct pointing to the figures on the odometer. However, you are in doubt about the correctness of the information.

What to do?
Do not rely on seller’s claims such as “mileage as per odometer” or “mileage as read“. The seller is just providing information without guaranteeing or warranting anything. Insist on a written confirmation of the “actual mileage” in the purchase agreement. Take a thorough look at the car when you go to pick it up – does its appearance match the indicated mileage? A closer look at specific parts of the vehicle may provide some indication as to the credibility of the mileage shown. In cars that have covered many miles, the shift stick and steering wheel sometimes bear discernible traces of handling and rubber pedal pads look heavily worn. Frequent opening and closing also leave marks on the plastic covers of oddment bins and on door seals. However, the absence of any visible cabin wear and tear does not guarantee a low (actual) mileage. The materials used in modern cars are much more wear-resistant and may hardly look worn even in vehicles with a six-digit mileage. You should therefore check the oil change tag in the engine compartment as well as the service tag on the B pillar, the service history booklet in the glove box and other documents in which the mileage is noted – which should not be higher than the figures shown on the odometer. In addition, ask the buyer for documentation of odometer readings (workshop invoices, exhaust emission and general inspection reports, fuel receipts with the mileage shown, etc.). The exhaust pipe may be a good indicator of the actual mileage: When a car has been driven through many winters, the exhaust pipe connection clamps become corroded. We also recommend to have the vehicle inspected including DTC memory readout by an independent entity (ADAC, DEKRA, GTÜ, KÜS, TÜV, etc.). Some DTC entries are stored along with a mileage reading. Higher mileage figures than those on the odometer may be an important clue that this is a fraud. Do bear in mind, however, that mileage fraud will be difficult to prove even with state-of-the-art workshop equipment. Please click here for further information (german)…

Suspicious ad

18.11.2012 16:30

Here are some clues for a suspicious ad:

  • The vehicle is too cheap – it appears too good to be true.
  • The contact details seem dubious – the seller insists on communicating by e-mail only.
  • The ad requests advance payment, contact to an alleged escrow service or payment to a forwarding agent or shipping company.
  • The telephone number is fake, i.e. it is not the seller who answers or the number does not exist.

What to do:
Use the “contact us” form or phone the online marketplace or your automobile club and have them check the suspicious ad. Most online market portals for cars in Germany provide a direct link to report suspicious ads. If in doubt, better pass on a supposed bargain rather than incur unnecessary risks.

If you are requested to contact an escrow service or shipping company:
Usually, online market portals do not offer escrow services. An exception is the eBay Motors escrow service. provides a topical list of fake escrow services and shipping companies and works to have them removed from the Internet. For an overview of these companies including screenshots of their homepages and the escrow fraud search page click here!

Suspicious e-mail:

  • E-mail phishing (short for “password fishing”) is a widely used technique to acquire sensitive information from Internet users.

What to do:
If in doubt, use the “contact us” form or phone the online marketplace and ask whether this is a genuine e-mail. Never disclose any sensitive data in response to an e-mail!

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