Selling a car online? Don't set yourself up to be scammed

Selling expensive items safely online

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - These days, selling just about anything online can be quick and relatively easy.

But when it comes to big ticket items - like a car - that convenience can put you at risk.

John Gayle knows a scam when he sees one.

"If you trust everyone you're going to probably get screwed," said Gayle.

He's a nationally recognized attorney who protects consumers.

"It basically had one owner it's whole life," he told us as he scrolled through computer images of a vehicle he recently sold. He says it's very apparent just how eager people are to trick you out of your money.

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About a year ago, it was time for Gayle finally sell his beloved 1991 Jeep Wagoneer.

"There were only 1,200 of these vehicles built with this particular color," said Gayle.

It had been in his family for 25 years.

The moment he put pictures up online, he instantly got scammers asking questions.

Some tried to help him sell the vehicle. They offered money through Paypal, not even negotiating the price.

"He called and said, 'I'll send someone to pick it up and the money will be in your account.' And I thought it was odd that he didn't want to look at it. He didn't want to see if it had been in a wreck. Didn't even need to see if there was an engine in it."

Thankfully, Gayle didn't fall for it. The person he eventually sold the vehicle to came to see it in person, negotiated the price and brought cash.

"I got a sense of who he was, it was not just some stranger," said Gayle.

12 On Your Side wanted to see just how believable these scammers can be, so we had a producer take a few photos of an old Ford Freestar and posted them online.

Within a week, we had 15 responses. Most people asked us questions. Is the mileage accurate? How's the engine and transmission?

But one post caught our eye. It said, "Hello, I would like to look I to purchasing your Ford freestar."

Gayle says posts like this, ones that don't sound right with clear grammatical errors, should be ignored.

"You really have to have your radar up all the time when you're buying and selling things online," said Gayle.

When someone offers you the full price, sight unseen, that's a big red flag.

Only accept cash. Checks can be cancelled or faked and Paypal charges reversed.

"Send it with a way that requires a signature," said Gayle. "They may claim they never received it."

We even got a lowball offer on our ford Freestar, but Gayle says you should really be worried when they offer you more than you asked.

"When your talking thousands of dollars and you're dealing with strangers, you've got to have your wits about you and make sure this thing is on the up and up," said Gayle.

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