Many online vehicle buyers like eBay because of all the protection it provides.
But one young woman learned all that protection is worthless if the eBay pages turn out to be fake.
That's exactly what happened to her, and it could target you if you are searching for a car during the holiday season.
Great deal on a 2010 Nissan
Shawncea Colvin was hunting for a used car and found a great deal on "Letgo," a selling app that's a sort of updated version of Craigslist.
It was a 2010 Nissan Maxima for a bargain $1,500. The Letgo ad had a full description (98,000 miles, very good condition), and a half dozen photos.
"I've seen every part of the car, the inside, the front, the side," she said.
Colvin messaged the seller, who explained she was in the military and about to be deployed, which she said was why she was listing it at such a low price. She also told Colvin to communicate off-app via email, claiming she could not use her phone at the military base.
"She said she was going into training with her medical team for a year. She said she didn't want to store the car," Colvin said.
The seller told Colvin it would be sold through eBay Motors -- for safety --- and that she needed to send a $500 deposit of eBay gift cards, which would be backed up by the auction site.
The seller forwarded a screen shot of an eBay Motors transaction page, showing the $1,500 deal.
"So I put $200 on one card, $200 on another one, and $100 on another," Colvin said.
She then scratched off the coating, and read the numbers to the seller. But that's the last she heard from the seller: It was all a scam.
Why this scam is so successful
In case you are wondering how people keep falling for these car selling scams, it is very easy.
The seller kept referring to eBay, and eBay Motors. But it was all a ruse, as eBay was never involved. It was all done through a trading app, and then via email with a Gmail address.
"When she sent me this eBay Protection Service email I thought, 'That's okay, eBay is a secure site.' So I never thought it would be a scam or anything," Colvin said.
An eBay spokesman told us:
"This transaction appears to be a scam, unfortunately, scam artists will list items for sale on non-eBay trading sites, and promise eBay's protection as a means of completing the scam."
He said to protect yourself:
- All eBay Motors transactions should be done on the eBay site, never via text or private email.
- Be suspicious if a seller sends you a screen shot of an eBay page. They are easy to duplicate and doctor. Again, everything should be done on eBay itself.
- Do not pay via gift cards or Western Union, as that is untraceable currency. Use PayPal preferably, or credit card.
- Be suspicious of any car or truck you cannot see in person.
- Be suspicious of any seller listing a car at an unrealistic low price (such as a 2010 car for just $1,500) who needs to sell it immediately.
"She seemed so trustworthy. She trusted me and I trusted her," Colvin said.
But that trust has cost her $500, and that nice woman selling the car probably wasn't a woman at all (it makes people more relaxed and trusting).
We've asked eBay to look into Colvin's case and see if there is any chance she can recover the money stolen by the scammer, but it appears unlikely.
As for the car? The photos and description were all stolen from a legitimate listing. And Colvin is out $500 of holiday shopping cash.
As always, don't waste your money.
"Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer news and money saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com