Buying a Car - The Worst Day of Your Life?

Think about the last car ad you saw. In Australia, most car ads include themes of freedom and independence and getting away from it all. Cars are linked to momentous occasions in our lives and for some, a car is part of the family

Buying a car is not something you do on impulse. It’s a big decision. Your car says a lot about you as a person. Think of the kind of person who drives a BMW, a Tesla, a Hilux! There is a lot of thinking to be done, research to be done, things to consider – like colour; do you go white or grey?

Buying a car should give you all the feelings that the ads promise, but in reality it’s a stressful, risky, unsecure, complicated, time-consuming and often expensive process. Digital technology should have made things easier, but in many ways new technology has made the experience of buying a car harder and more stressful. 

The big day is here. You’ve set yourself a budget, you’ve done your research, you’ve considered new and used options and shopped around so you know the price you should be paying. You’ve found your dream car, but that is just the beginning. Now you have to navigate and complete the transaction itself. 

Even if you are buying a new car from a dealership, the process is not without risk. Some of Australia’s biggest car sellers have been involved in data breaches and consumers have had their money intercepted by hackers faking invoices on dealer letterhead.

If you found the perfect car for you on a marketplace like Facebook or Gumtree, then the chances of being involved in a scam increase significantly.  

How a Facebook Marketplace Scam Works

The buyer finds a low-priced 2010 Hilux ute listed for $5,000 on Facebook. The seller’s profile appears legitimate, showing a middle-aged couple and an account established in 2008. At face value, everything seems fine, but as they say – if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. As a buyer, you could do another level of research and discover that the same seller has listed the same ute 80 times. Red Flag. 

But, if you were an average Facebook user you might not see that warning sign and contact the seller, who would ask you to leave the marketplace and use email. This get’s around Facebook’s simple scam detection software. 

The seller might then claim to be overseas, but the car could be delivered through a trusted brand that transports cars. This would be another red flag, but if the potential buyer continued they would get an official-looking email purportedly from the company, but a closer look could reveal a mismatched domain name. 

Many of the buyers would have walked by this point, but this is where some scammers become too clever for their own good. Instructions to pay at an ATM converting Australian dollars to Bitcoin might help the criminals from being traced for a while, but many of their victims would not be able to negotiate the cryptocurrency payment. 

This is not a one off. There are many ways to scam an unsuspecting Facebook Marketplace buyer. These include:

Phishing links leading to fraudulent websites. 

Fake bank-transfer screenshots to trick sellers into refunding non-existent overpayments. 

Scammers may also request a copy of the buyer’s driver’s license to steal their identity and access their Facebook account. Often, the original owner of a compromised account may be unaware of its misuse.

Victims can inadvertently become part of a chain reaction, with multiple buyers showing up at an address listed on a stolen license, expecting to collect their purchases. This leads to confusion and frustration, as seen when victims unknowingly arrive at the true license holder’s home, who may already have dealt with several such incidents. 

Think something might be a scam? Check out Scamwatch.

Buying a Car – The Best Day of Your Life?

“Technology should be able to fix these problems. Buying a car should be simple, secure and risk-free. You should be able to just use an app to have all the background checks done, the seller identified, the vehicle verified and checked, and the payment should be instantaneous.“

The AutoSettle Product Team

That’s why we have built AutoSettle. The freedom and independence and virtue signaling that owning a car gives you should be enabled by new technology like Digital ID and Fintech. We can’t solve traffic delays or potholes or range anxiety, but we can make buying a car a momentous and memorable day of your life.