Every day, it seems that new online scams and tricks pop up on the interactive landscape. From foreign dignitaries who want to transfer large amounts of money into your bank account to lotteries you didn't enter but somehow won, millions of dollars are stolen online every year.

In the automotive world, it's also not uncommon for a seller to misrepresent the vehicle for sale when creating an online ad. For example, it's easy, with the distractions of multitasking, to list a Porsche for sale at $8,000, when actually the seller meant to type one more zero.

The question you must ask yourself, when it comes to purchasing a car, is how can I get the most out of the ads I see?

We've put together a list of some issues we hear about from customers. From too-good-to-be-true prices to owners who don't exist, these tips will give you a head start to getting your best deal. Read our Fraud Awareness Tips for more information.

1. The $300 SUV
Dealers will sometimes post the monthly lease or payment price in the purchase area on our listings. That means if you're scanning a list of vehicles quickly, you might be stunned to find a $10,000 SUV listed for only $300.

It's not necessarily a scam, because in many cases, someone just listed the most important information in the most important place. But no one likes to drive out to see a vehicle only to learn the price is much, much higher than they anticipated. Make sure you always call ahead to double-check the price of the vehicle.

2. The "Official" Email from AutoTrader.com
We are an online vehicle listing service that connects car buyers and sellers. That means we don't own, buy or sell vehicles listed on our site.

We don't offer automotive warehousing or shipping services, and we don't get involved in transactions between buyers and sellers. So you ever receive an email that says we do offer these services, please report it to us at fraudwatch@autotrader.com and to law enforcement. It's most certainly a scam.

3. Angles of Photos
Would you ever buy a house without seeing the backyard? Even if the front was really beautiful and well manicured, you would want to see what the other half of the house looked like.

But sometimes when it comes to looking at cars online, we're too forgiving about actually seeing the whole vehicle. If the vehicle you're interested in doesn't have a complete set of photos, ask if it's been in an accident.

Chances are it hasn't, but you want to make sure a particular angle wasn't avoided because of a blemish. (Bear in mind, not everyone has a digital camera, and a lack of photos does not constitute a damaged vehicle.)

4. Everyone Loves a Good Story
Creativity can be a great thing, but don't be afraid to be a little suspicious if someone starts spinning a tale about the car he's selling.

Unfortunately, a popular story right now involves a tale about members of the military trying to sell their vehicles while in Iraq. A friend or a family member is helping out, so the seller needs to ship it to you and have you send the money in someone else's name.

Suddenly, the basic act of buying a car is complicated with a thousand details. Keep your purchase simple, and if someone unwinds a fairy tale adventure when you try to buy his sedan, make sure you ride off into the sunset so you can live happily ever after without that car.

These are just a few of the ways you can protect yourself when shopping for cars online. Make sure you do your research and ask lots of questions. The best way to get what you need is to educate yourself long before you sign any paperwork.


© 2007 AutoTrader.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
"AutoTrader.com" is a registered trademark of TPI Holdings, Inc. used under exclusive license.

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Jon Acuff is a staff writer for AutoTrader.com.


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