DARIEN, Conn. – Police were warning consumers to be wary of online scammers after a Darien resident was nearly fleeced by an ersatz car buyer.
Fortunately, police said, the resident smelled a rat and pulled out of the deal before it was too late.
Selling stuff on the Internet – with its vehicle history reports and detailed car listings -- has never been easier.
However, the thing that makes it great – accessibility – also makes online transactions prime targets for thieves.
The Darien seller was sent a check for nearly twice the amount of the car’s agreed-upon price.
The scammer then sent instructions to give the overage to the service that was supposedly shipping the car.
Something didn’t feel right and the intended victim bowed out, police said.
Here’s how the scam works:
A seller is contacted by a prospective “buyer” who offers to send a check immediately -- plus additional money -- to cover shipment of the car overseas.
When the check arrives, the seller is told to deposit it and wire the overage to the “shipper.”
When the wire transfer is picked up, the “buyer” vanishes, leaving his victim on the hook for the missing money.
Here are ways to avoid getting snookered:
- Never wire money or use a bank-to-bank transfer in a transaction.
- Always try to deal locally when buying or selling high-value merchandise.
- Do not sell or buy from someone who won't meet you face to face.
- Wait until a check has cleared the bank to transfer title or the car itself.
- Never trust a seller/buyer who says the transaction is guaranteed by PayPal or other online marketplaces. These sites explicitly do not guarantee people using their services are legitimate.
- Beware of sellers/buyers who want to conclude a transaction as quickly as possible.
- Call the buyer/seller to establish phone contact. If he seems to neglect details agreed to via e-mail or is unable to answer questions about their location or the location of the car, it's probably a scam.
- Trust your gut; if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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