Commissioner's blog: Divorce used in cheap car scam

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Online classified sites are a popular and convenient way for car-hunters to scour listings of second-hand vehicles, but this also makes them a target for scammers.

WA ScamNet has received multiple reports from consumers who have enquired about vehicles being ‘sold’ online at very low prices via Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, only to receive a convoluted backstory by the supposed seller about the sale.

In reality, the car doesn’t exist and the ‘seller’ is a scammer with a fake profile who says the car is being sold at a very low price due to a marriage breakdown. The scammer also claims they are in the army and facing imminent deployment, meaning the buyer will need to organise and pay for delivery of the car.

The scammer sends fake eBay motor/protection emails, which state that the money will be refunded if they are not happy with the vehicle.

But after paying the money via bank transfer, the victim never receives the car nor their money back.

Unfortunately, we are aware of three WA victims who have lost $15,620 in this way.

While scammers are getting savvier, there are some ways you can protect yourself while car-shopping online:

  • Never hand over personal information to people you do not know
  • Be suspicious if the seller only wants payment via bank transfer – use payment methods that offer some protections like credit card or PayPal
  • Check emails for authenticity – if the email is claiming to come from eBay, go to eBay directly and confirm that the email is legitimate
  • If the price sounds too good to be true, it usually is
  • Check pictures used in the advertisement aren’t taken from other listings and/or websites (conduct a Google image search)
  • Perform a PPSR on the vehicle
  • If you have paid money, contact your financial institution ASAP
  • If you handed over personal information, contact ID Care on 1800 595 160

For more scam information, or to report a scam, go to the WA ScamNet website:

Penny Lipscombe, Consumer Protection
Penny Lipscombe, Consumer Protection, by CP Media

Penny Lipscombe

Commissioner for Consumer Protection


Consumer Protection
Media release
24 Dec 2020

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