Buying a car – the escrow scam

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It’s not easy buying a car safely if you’re not familiar with the Internet. A friend of mine phoned me to ask how to do an escrow payment for a car he found on Piston Heads.

It was a classic Internet sob story – “My wife divorced me, I’ve moved to Spain, I don’t want a right hand drive car over here, pay me with escrow and they’ll hold your money safely until they deliver the car”.

Thankfully something prompted him to phone me, but even then he insisted that he’d Googled escrow and it was “very safe”. After explaining that it’s about the most common scam in the book and that he could kiss goodbye to any money he sent he saw sense. Undoubtedly he would have been directed to a fake escrow site and that would have been the last he ever heard from the seller.

If you are buying a car on the Internet treat it exactly the same as if you were buying from an ad in your local paper. Meet the seller at their home, view the log book and use your mobile to check whether it is written-off, accident damaged, scrapped, stolen, number of keepers, colour change, date first registered and of course make, model and vehicle identity.

Finally and most importantly don’t hand over your money until you’re with the car and have the log book and keys in your hand. If you are going to use an escrow service remember that they don’t deliver cars and the safest one to use is

3 Responses

  1. Great post.

    Perhaps I can just add to this that the best way to guard against being ripped off by online sales or auctions of any kind, Craigslist and eBay included—and whether seller or buyer—is to use a *bona fide* online escrow company. Especially for pricier items like antiques, jewelry and autos. Although it does add some cost, it takes the uncertainty out of the transaction, and that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

    For my money, the best bona fide online escrow (and there seems to be ten fraudulent escrow sites for every bona fide one) is probably ( In fact, it’s the only one that eBay recommends, and is the only online escrow company that is licensed to provide escrow services all across the United States.

    Take care,

    Ulf Wolf

  2. My advice would be…Never use any kind of escrow service.

    Thing of the past, soon to gone forever.


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