Another Car Sale Scam: Phony Vehicle Report Requests

As if there weren’t enough already…

Selling one of my older cars this month, I have gotten an influx of text messages and emails from people asking for a vehicle history report.

Or rather, someone asking me to buy a vehicle history report.

The scam works like this – a very motivated buyer contacts you asking for a vehicle history report. They notice one is missing from your profile. They tell you that they prefer a particular vehicle history report, and send an elegant-looking link to it.

The first red flag is someone being overly eager. Someone who wants to buy the car already – but for the fact it’s missing one of those overly-inflated-in-value history reports. Two, only click links from anyone you don’t know in a secure browser. Like an up-to-date Chrome with Incognito activated.

Clearly the link when fully loaded up will almost always have an affiliate link code. The “buyer” has no interest in buying the car – just in conning you into buying their vehicle history report, so they get a few bucks in affiliate marketing credit.

What’s so insidious about this is that it probably works. Imagine texting or emailing one or two thousand potential car buyers, copy-and-pasting the same con-job. Now imagine 3-5% of those potential buyers actually follows through.

Calculating you can send (realistically) 2,000 emails in one day (high-end, but certainly doable)… that’s a take rate of 100 people scammed per day. Multiply by a $5 commission (also high-end, but also certainly doable), and you’re left with $500 for one day’s work. That’s $182,500 per year – if you pull that off every single day.

Obviously, very few people pull off that much of a haul. But even just a small fraction of that will keep scammers, particularly ones outside the United States – in lower socio-economic areas that can send text messages and emails just as easily, to keep doing it.

Bottom line: IF someone really wants a vehicle history report, just offer to pay for one when they come and test drive the car. That way if they no-show, you’re out nothing. And even if they don’t come through, there’s no upside to them, and you have a copy you can then give to other potential buyers.

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