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. This also applies to any finance offers for which your credit status has not been checked: Only if you have a contract in your hands should you make any special payments, pay a deposit, commission or service charge.
This applies regardless of whether it is a private individual or car dealer wanting to sell a vehicle.
You have made a payment? Find help here.
No money transfer!
Online money transfer by Western Union, MoneyGram or similar providers is often misused as an alleged escrow service. Online money transfer, however, is mainly intended for use by persons who know each other (friends, family). This type of transfer is not suitable for paying online car transactions, even if it appears that there is a built-in additional identity check. These are two popular schemes with buyers:
Example 1: Extreme bargain, seller outside Germany, payment by Western Union/MoneyGram
After emailing the seller, the interested buyer is asked to send a deposit by money transfer in order to confirm the purchase intention. As a proof of the money transfer, the seller asks for the buyer’s name and the reference number. Now knowing the sender’s name, the country of origin, the expected amount and presenting a fake personal identification, the seller can collect the money. Since the identification documents used to collect the money usually are excellent forgeries, the buyer loses the money with no means to reclaim it – and the offered car does not exist at all. Some buyers are even informed that the money was on its way back due to problems with the account. These are delaying tactics to complicate recovery of the money.
Example 2: Extreme bargain, seller outside Germany, payment via forwarding agent/shipping company
The alleged seller indicates a forwarding agent or shipping company as the escrow service handling the payment. This company’s website disappears from the web after a short time and reappears at a different address. The sites usually are good fakes and appear trustworthy. Especially if a business is based abroad, the money is usually not recoverable. Some buyers are even informed that the money was on its way back due to problems with the account. These are delaying tactics to complicate recovery of the money.
Example 3: Money transfer to friend to confirm the purchase intention or solvency of the buyer or as a security
The interested buyer is requested to prove his or her solvency and purchase intention by transferring money to a friend or family member and e-mail a copy of the payment slip. The buyer feels safe, knowing that the money will be collected by a person he or she knows. Knowing the recipient’s identity, however, the criminal can easily produce forged identification papers and pick up the money.
Special case money transfer/check fraud: buyer replies to your advertisement, buyer is based outside Germany, pays by cheque made out for more than the asking price.
To view this example, go to the cheque fraud section in the seller section.
You have made a payment? Find help here.
Caution, escrow service!
Many scammers use an escrow service, shipping or logistics service as front to inspire confidence. Since Internet car marketplaces are not involved in the actual purchase process, they cannot offer such service. Classified ad marketplaces in Germany do not offer any money transaction services, nor do they advise against or recommend a particular method of payment. Also, they do not use classification systems indicating particularly trustworthy sellers or premium members.
You have already used an escrow service? Find help here.
False escrow services
Latest ADAC warnings refer to an escrow service operated by the law firm and notary services DigiMedia-Medienrecht (www.digimedianotarkanzlei.de) allegedly based in Berlin. The fraudsters slightly modified the name and address of a reputable solicitor with offices on Kurfürstendamm in Berlin to offer their scam escrow service for car sales. Contacting the law firm actually residing on Kurfürstendamm, it turned out that the solicitor there does not operate any escrow services and that another person offered this service using the solicitor’s name. According to information given by the competent bar association, the www.digimedianotarkanzlei.de website is hosted in another country. This is why it has so far been difficult to remove the website from the Internet. However, the office of the public prosecutor has already been notified of the fraud.
You have already made contact with the seller. Click here for assistance…