A New Scam in the Golden State’s Used Car Scene

Californians, particularly those in the business of selling used cars, need to be on high alert. A scam that first appeared in the southern part of the state around late 2023 has now spread to Northern California. This information comes directly from the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, highlighting the seriousness of the issue.

The Scam’s Modus Operandi

The scam typically starts with an individual showing interest in a car listed for sale on popular platforms like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. These so-called buyers, often arriving with an accomplice, set up a time to inspect and test drive the car. During this interaction, the seller is tactically distracted, usually by someone fiddling under the car’s hood. The scammer then draws the seller’s attention to a fabricated mechanical fault in the car.

The reality is that the scammer’s accomplice has intentionally tampered with the car to simulate a defect. The scammer then uses this manufactured problem to negotiate a significantly reduced price for the car, often buying it for much less than its actual value.

How to Safeguard Yourself

To help Californians steer clear of this scam, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office has shared some essential tips:

  1. Choose Public Venues for Meetings: Always meet with potential buyers in well-populated public places, like the parking lots of grocery stores.
  2. Don’t Meet Alone: It’s advisable to have a companion, such as a friend or family member, with you when you meet with a buyer.
  3. Maintain Visibility of Your Vehicle: Never leave your vehicle unattended with the potential buyer, including during test drives.
  4. Validate Any Claimed Mechanical Issues: If the buyer claims there’s a mechanical issue, don’t rush to lower your price. First, get the car checked by a mechanic you trust. Pause any sale discussions until you can confirm or refute the claimed problem.
  5. Be Cautious of Unusually Low Offers: Watch out for offers that are significantly lower than your car’s market value.
  6. Ensure All Paperwork is in Order: Make sure to complete all necessary DMV paperwork during the sale process.

Conclusion: Vigilance is Key

In the face of these increasingly cunning scams, sellers in California’s used car market must remain vigilant and informed. By adhering to these guidelines, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to this growing scam.

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