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. Escrow-fraud.com 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!
- 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!