'Buyer protected' used car scam could cost you thousands; here's how to spot it

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A warning for anyone looking to buy a new car. Scammers are flooding social media sites and online for sale websites offering deals that are just too good to be true.

Jordanna Foster almost fell for the scam when she spotted a 2000 Jeep Wrangler on Facebook Marketplace for $2,000.

"I thought it was a great deal. It was an older model, but it had only 75,000 miles. It was a good price and so I thought it would be great, you know a second car just to have fun," Foster said.

She responded to the ad, and the seller claimed the Jeep was sitting in an eBay storage facility in Augusta, Georgia.

"They would ship it to me for free and let me try it out for five days, and then if I liked it then I could keep it."

That sounded good to Foster until she got an invoice that appeared to be from eBay. According to the invoice, to get the Jeep shipped free to her, she had to follow these detailed instructions, which states she buys $2,000 in eBay gift cards, which claims to come with 100% protection.

"I had to send the money to eBay first and they would hold it in a trust fund, and if I liked the car, they would release the money to the owner, but if I didn't they would ship it back to the owner," Foster said.

Before spending her $2,000 Foster did some research and realized this is all a scam.

"Once I figured out it is a scam I went on Facebook Marketplace to try to report it as a scam and realized there were hundreds if not thousands of these cars posted using the same kind of scheme, you know, low mileage older model but a price between $1,500 and $2,000."

Foster is right as Troubleshooter Diane Wilson continues to hear from viewers every week who fall for this scam. This week an ABC11 viewer just lost $1,000 thinking they were buying the 2008 Honda Accord.

They were told to buy the eBay gift cards and read the numbers off of the cards. Once paying all that money, the buyer asked for even more money.

Another viewer lost more than $20,000 to this scam when he thought he was buying a tractor. He wired the $20,000 with the promise the tractor would be shipped to him for free. If he didn't like the tractor when he got it, the seller claimed his purchase was 100% protected and he could get his money back. Once he wired the $20,000, the tractor never arrived and he couldn't get in touch with the seller.

eBay does have warnings on their websites, saying while yes 5,000,000 customers have bought vehicles through eBay, scammers still use their good name and copy their eBay logo to send fake correspondence claiming to be with their buyer protection program. We have also done stories on ABC11 viewers losing money in other variations of this car scam.

The Troubleshooter Takeaways to watch out for are the scammers first attract you with a low price on the car. When you respond to the ad, they claim to be a motivated seller who is out of town, so they can't show you the vehicle but can ship it to you for free. They will claim your purchase is buyer protected, but when they only want payment send via gift cards or by wiring money, those are sure signs it's a scam.
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