Vehicle scams soar

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26th May, 2021

Scammers are running rife in Australia, with vehicle scams ramping up for used cars, motorcycles, boats and caravans.

Scammers post fake online listings offering to sell in-demand vehicles at well below market value to lure potential buyers looking for a second hand vehicle.

One of the most concerning parts about these scams is that victims are providing sensitive personal information to the scammer, including their address, phone number and more alarmingly copies of their driver’s license.

To protect your identity, never provide your personal details to someone you have only met online and never send someone a copy of your drivers license, or provide your drivers license number - a drivers license is like gold to fraudsters to take over your identity.

Vehicle scams are commonly hosted on sites such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Autotrader, Car Sales, Cars Guide and Gumtree. Scammers seek payment to secure the car for the buyer but never deliver the vehicle.

The latest technique sees scammers pretending to be defence personnel. Reports indicate the scammer claims to be in the military (navy, army and air force), or to work for the Department of Defence, and want to sell their vehicle before deployment. This creates a sense of urgency with buyers and explains the unusually low listing price of the vehicles and why buyers can not inspect the vehicle prior to payment.

Warning signs to watch out for:

  • A price that is too good to be true: if a classified ad offers a vehicle at a very low price, this should raise alarm bells.
  • Payment via third party third party website or escrow agent: a third party who is supposed to ‘hold’ the money from the buyer until goods are received, before releasing the funds to the seller.
  • Payment first: the seller insists on payment before meeting the buyer or allowing them to pick up their new car.
  • Fast sale: sellers  needing to sell in a hurry.
  • No inspection:  seller making up excuses to avoid inspections, such as being deployed or moving away.

Always try to inspect the vehicle before purchase and avoid unusual payment methods. If you have any doubts do not proceed with the sale. Consumers should trust their instincts. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

When purchasing online, always use PayPal, this reduces the risk of your card becoming compromised.

What to do if you have been scammed:

If you have been the victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible and contact the platform on which you were scammed to inform them of the circumstances. 

If you provided personal information, bank card information or bank account details (even if the sale didn't proceed) contact your bank immediately as your card and/or account has likely been compromised.

If you have experienced a loss online and believe the perpetrator is located in Australia, you can also report the scam to ReportCyber, they triage reports and allocate them to the relevant law enforcement authorities for further action.
Victims of identity theft, or cybercrime can contact IDCARE, a free government-funded service that will work with you to develop a specific response plan to your situation and provide support. You can contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160 or visit


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