There are many ways to safely exchange money on the internet these days but you’re going to have to be on top of your game to stay ahead of the criminals. Among the giants in the honest money exchange industry are Google Checkout and PayPal. Both operate similarly in that you set up a free account, associate your bank account or credit card with the account, then start sending or receiving money. It’s generally more secure because you never give your actual credit card number to some stranger. You send them a PayPal payment instead. For certain large purchases such as automobiles the companies offer an escrow service where the money is held in limbo until both the buyer and seller are satisfied. It is a very safe way to buy stuff as long as you keep your skeptical radar in tune.
But people are getting scammed left and right when trying to buy a car using these services. During my research, I came across hundreds of stories from people who shared their horror in hopes of preventing someone else from getting scammed. Reading their stories, I can immediately pick out the red flags that should alert any skeptic worth their salt. I’ll point out some of these flags here.
The scam begins when someone finds an excellent deal on an automobile on eBay, Craigslist, or other car buying website. When a potential “mark” responds to the ad, they will receive a response similar to this: “Thank you for your interest in purchasing my 2005 Acura TL. It is in perfect condition, with no scratches on it, no damage, always garaged,. Everything about this car functions perfectly. 29,0000mi. Incredible power, handling and reliability. If you are interested in buying, the price is US $2,900 (RED FLAG! Why that price is almost unbelievable, isn’t it?). I had to move with my family to Greece but because now i don't have time to ride i decided to sell the car (RED FLAG! The scammers always want to lure you in with some sob story, promise of riches or impress you with their “Christian” love). The transaction will be done through eBay for our own protection, no money first to me. Your funds will be 100% insured by eBay until you will receive and inspect the car, and I will be sure that I will receive the payment. “ (RED FLAG: Someone astute in English can tell this person’s native language is probably not English.)
If the mark decides to proceed, they will receive an email with containing an official looking invoice from “Google Checkout” or “PayPal.” A skeptical and experienced eye can easily discern that the “invoice” is not actually from a Google or eBay internet address but it sure looks real. The invoice will typically direct you to make a payment through Western Union or Moneygram (RED FLAG! Never send money through the internet to any stranger via Western Union or MoneyGram! EVER!). If you fall for that, you can kiss your money goodbye. Overworked law enforcement will never pursue the criminal.