Community Awareness: Fraudulent Vehicle Sales

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Provided by Prince William County Police

If you looking into buying a vehicle online beware, it could be a scam. One fraud includes the advertisement of a vehicle for sale with a seemingly logical explanation for the item’s low price and the time-sensitive nature of the transaction. Common explanations given by the perpetrators include (but are not limited to):

  • Seller is moving to another location or being deployed by the military
  • Seller received the vehicle as part of a divorce settlement
  • Vehicle belonged to a relative who has died

The scammer makes the sale appear legitimate by claiming to collaborate with reputable companies, such as eBay, but they have no actual association. The scammer assures the buyer protection through a third party’s Buyer Protection Program and sends an email with a fraudulent toll-free number that impersonates the third party. The buyer is informed to purchase prepaid gift cards for the agreed
upon sale price, share the prepaid card codes and that the vehicle will be delivered in a few days. After the transaction, the suspect typically ignores all follow-up calls, text messages, or emails from the buyer or demands additional payments. The vehicle never arrives and the buyer is never able to recoup their losses.

Tips for Purchasing Vehicles Online:

  • When it comes to making any purchases, be cautious of items advertised well below their market value. Remember, if the deal appears too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Research the advertised item and the seller’s name, email addresses, telephone numbers, and other
    unique identifiers.
  • Research the company’s contact information and its shipping and payment policies before completing a transaction.
  • Avoid sellers who refuse to meet in person or who refuse to allow you to physically inspect the vehicle before the purchase.
  • Ask for the vehicle’s VIN number, license plate (if possible), and the name of the individual to whom the car is currently registered.

Individuals who believe they may be a victim of, or have knowledge of, an online scam (regardless of dollar amount) can file a complaint with the IC3 at

If you provided payment and never received the vehicle, you can file a report online at or call 703-792-6500.


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