Beware: eBay car buying scam | Arizona News | Arizona Public Safety Coalition

Beware: eBay car buying scam | Arizona News

by (Warren Trent)

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3 ON YOUR SIDE (3TV) – Walking to the bus stop is pretty routine for Doreen Lopez.

“I’ve gone places where I’ve had to change up to four buses in one morning to get to a job, every day for three months,” Lopez said.

Tired of the constant bus commute, the Tempe woman started saving for a car and eventually went online to see what she could afford. She used a website called OfferUp, a legitimate online site where you can buy and sell all kinds of different items. That’s when Lopez found a car that fit her budget.

“That’s a beautiful car, isn’t it?” Lopez said.

The seller was asking only $1,000 for a 2006 Acura.


The seller then encouraged Lopez to navigate outside the OfferUp website and then, through emails, the seller told Lopez the deal could be completed through eBay Motors.

By using eBay Motors, the seller claimed they both could be protected from getting ripped off, but that certainly wasn’t the case.

“I’m out $2,000, exactly,” Lopez said.

Lopez now realizes her first mistake was listening to the scammer who emailed and convinced Lopez into sending a $1,000 eBay gift cards to reportedly purchase the Acura, a car the scammer really didn’t own at all.

The second mistake was sending in an additional $1,000 in eBay gift cards to cover fictitious fees for the car.

“I was duped,” Lopez said.

Lopez was lured into a car selling scam that 3 On Your Side has been exposing for years.

There really is a legitimate eBay Motors Program to protect consumers, but scammers use the eBay logo and similar looking email addresses to fool potential victims.

eBay tells 3 On Your Side, “This transaction appears to be a scam as it did not take place on eBay” and added they work with the FBI in warning consumers about the scam.

Unfortunately, Lopez did not see or hear about the warning.

“I cry every day for what happened to me,” Lopez said.

For now, Lopez is back to waiting on a bus and back to saving up to buy another used car.

“I feel stupid. I felt like an ignorant person that I let these people do that to me and I kept sending them the money because I wanted that car,” Lopez said.

You can find information below from eBay, OfferUp and the FBI on how consumers can protect themselves from being scammed.

3 On Your Side received the following statement and tips from eBay:

“This transaction appears to be a scam as it did not take place on eBay. Unfortunately, scam artists will list items for sale on fake landing pages, Craigslist or other non-eBay trading sites, and promise eBay’s protection as a means of completing the scam. Criminals often exploit well-known, trusted brand names like eBay to attract consumers and then lure them onto fake websites and into fraudulent transactions. We always encourage all our shoppers to be cautious when they aren’t purchasing directly through the eBay website. We provide tips for safe shopping and warning signs to look out for scams on the eBay Security Center page.”

Common warning signs:

The equipment or vehicle is advertised well below what it is worth.

  • Know the approximate value of the equipment or vehicle you are interested in buying by using trusted resources on the internet. If it appears too good to be true, it probably is.
  • FACT: Criminals will make the equipment or vehicle very appealing and tempt you with a price you don’t want to miss out on.

Seller pushes for speedy completion of the transaction and requests payment through a service or method that can put the money in their hands quickly.

Escrow accounts can also be used to securely transfer funds to the seller (providing that you set up the escrow account, not the seller). eBay recommends using our approved escrow service with Escrow.comLearn more about using an escrow service. Direct bank transfers and wire payments may also be requested by the Seller. Please proceed with caution with these payment methods and remember it is always a good idea to inspect the vehicle in person before sending any money. With all transactions, we want to encourage you to work with the Seller. In addition, you may want to consider providing payment at the time you pick up the equipment or vehicle.

You cannot meet the seller or look at the equipment or vehicle prior to sending a payment. The seller may be very polite and apologetic, but cannot meet you due to a special circumstance, such as:

  • Seller is being/has been deployed by the military
  • Seller is going through a divorce (or getting married)
  • Death in the family or a health issue of a relative
  • They work on a boat or are out of town for an extended period of time
  • Received through inheritance and not needed
  • FACT: Legitimate sellers are motivated and will make every effort to meet with all potential buyers immediately. If the seller cannot meet, they will designate another person to show the vehicle on their behalf.

You found the equipment or vehicle on another website and the seller tells you eBay will protect the transaction, such as:

  • Extend eBay warranty, eBay guarantee, or a buyer’s protection plan
  • Offer a return policy in case you are not satisfied (like a ‘cooling off’ period)
  • Process the payment directly or hold/secure the funds
  • FACT: eBay provides Vehicle Purchase Protection only for transactions that start and are completed on the eBay Motors website (other terms and conditions apply). In addition, eBay does NOT hold payments or extend protection for non-eBay conducted transactions.

The only way to buy equipment or a vehicle on eBay is by logging into your eBay account with a user ID/email address and password. One of the following needs to be true:

  • You were the winning bidder on the auction
  • You clicked ‘Buy it now’
  • You sent a best offer and the seller accepted it

In these cases, the item will always appear in the purchase history of your eBay account.

Criminals want to lure you into feeling safe. They take extra effort to disguise their websites and emails to look like they are from eBay or associated with eBay, when they are not. See Example

  • Emails have poor grammar, broken English or have other distinguishing errors (e.g., misspelled words, incorrect punctuation)
  • Communications may be overly formal or sound very mechanical. The responses are not personalized and could include general terms like ‘Dear Sir’ and ‘Good Day’
  • Emails are not sent from the ‘’ domain. Criminals may have a recognizable word in their email name or as part of their domain name, such as ‘eBay’ or ‘VPP’ (e.g., but these are NOT sent from eBay.
  • Email contains false information like invoice numbers, transaction case IDs, or VPP case ID #s

If you are suspicious about an email that claims to be from eBay, sign in to My eBay and click the Messages tab. If you do NOT see the same message “From eBay”, the email is likely fake. To report a fake email, forward it to

If you are still unsure if the vehicle being offered is legitimate, contact eBay Customer Service.

3 On Your Side received the following statement and tips from OfferUP.

“We’re incredibly disappointed to hear of Ms. Lopez’s experience in our marketplace. OfferUp’s number one priority is to provide a trusted and secure experience, and we encourage people to shop with caution and take advantage of our in-app messaging, user ratings, verified ID program TruYou, and to transact at well-lit and monitored Community MeetUp Spots which we’ve set up in partnership with local police departments across the country. This particular incident highlights one of our top tips: do not share personal details outside of the app because scammers will always try to get your personal info to get money or steal your identity.”

Hi Warren, 

Thanks for your patience. On background, this incident did occur on OfferUp. Ms. Lopez was led to conduct her transaction through email, which is a common tactic for fraud since we cannot track the conversation once it’s taken off of the app. We liken this to buying something in brightly lit and monitored store, versus going into a dark alley to transact. We’ve built several safety tips into the experience for consumers to help them make smarter decisions. One example, which Ms. Lopez got, is a reminder to not share personal info outside of our in-app chat.  

In addition, we regularly share best practices on our blog with customers on how to conduct with strangers, and here are some that we’ve had since inception that might be helpful:

1. Look at the profiles of sellers/buyers

Key things to look for are their ratings, photos, profile photo, and if they are a TruYou (verified identity) member. If you’re ever unsure about something, you can always ask, or look for users who already have a strong rating.

2. Review the listing photo and description closely

Photos are important. Is the image a photo of the actual item for sale or a catalog photo of the item? Sellers are required to display an actual photo or photos of the item they have for sale, letting you see the item condition ahead of time. If the photos and description are unclear, ask questions through OfferUp’s in-app chat. If the item isn’t allowed under our Posting Rules or Prohibited Items List, please report them so we can investigate. 

3. Communicate with OfferUp

Having any type of communication outside of the OfferUp app makes it more difficult for us to protect your info and puts you at greater risk of fraud and other security issues. We strongly encourage you to communicate using our messaging system and recommend you don’t share personal info with other users.

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