Tips to avoiding online car purchasing scams – plus an actual case

By Margaret Bux
clock 4 min

Recently Director at Clarke Global Logistics, Martin Moyano, was contacted by an unknown shipper to provide a quote for the shipment of a classic car purchased from Melbourne, destined for a New Zealand customer.  The quote was provided.

Martin and the team did not hear back from him, however, were contacted at a later stage by the car buyer, who had paid a deposit of approximately $20,000 on a classic car, worth around $50,000.  It turned out that he had received a phony invoice that appeared to be from Clarke Global, but was actually created falsely by the unknown shipper to claim that he had paid customs and port handling charges on behalf of the customer.  This was the first sign that the entire job was phony.  The car purchaser had been scammed by the fake seller into paying a deposit for a vehicle which did not exist.  The only contact details were a phone number (for an unrelated business in NSW) which was obtained from the shipper’s email.

At the start of the process, the potential customer made contact with the potential (fake) seller on eBay to enquire and subsequently arrange purchase of the car however finalised the payment privately, instead of using eBay’s secure payment system.  Warning bell!   In this case, once the deposit was paid, the fake seller disappeared and the potential buyer scammed.

So, when buying a car online, make sure of the following:

  • There is paperwork to show that the seller is the owner and the car is under his/her name;
  • There are clear photos of the actual car and also the Vin number (engine number) which is located under the bonnet. To obtain a photo of the Vin number, the seller will need to be in the proximity of the car, which makes it more likely to exist;
  • A legitimate Bill of Lading needs to be provided by the seller showing vessel and destination. Be aware of shabby looking documents;
  • Documentation on the condition and history of the car, registration papers and service logs.
  • Check on a search engine like Google, that the email address provided has not already been reported as a scammer;
  • Speak to the seller by telephone rather than just by email. If a telephone number provided is not contactable, treat this with suspicion.
  • Scammers will seek an up-front deposit or will even try to obtain the full amount.

Unless  you are satisfied that a seller is genuine, never send money or give credit card or bank details to anyone that you do not know and trust.

If you have any queries or concerns in relation to online car purchasing, paperwork or lack thereof, feel free to contact the team at Clarke Global to discuss further on 9854 3000 or email

Photo by Drew’s Photo Shoots cc


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