Identified Scam:

Common eBay Motors Scams & How to Avoid Them

Don't fall victim to eBay Motors scams. Know the red flags, such as not being able to see the car in person first, a pushy seller, or a strange payment method.
Updated 30 March 2022
Common eBay Motors Scams & How to Avoid Them
Identified Scam:
Key Finding

Scammers post ads on eBay Motors for vehicles they aren't actually selling or even have.

Key Risk

You can lose the entire cost of the vehicle—once you send payment, the scammer disappears with your money and you never get the car.

Sections on this page
  1. What Are eBay Motors Scams?
  2. Red Flags of eBay Motors Scams
  3. How to Beat an eBay Motors Scam
  4. Fallen Victim to an eBay Motors Scam?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

The best way to protect yourself from an eBay Motors scam is always to see the car in person before you hand over any money. Although there are cases where this may be impossible (e.g., if you're out of town), it's still recommended as there are plenty of scammers just waiting to take your money. 

Unfortunately, the convenience of a website like eBay Motors (an online auction site) comes with its fair share of issues. Scammers take advantage of online car sale sites to steal your money. Whether you're using eBay to buy or sell cars, you need to be careful with who you do business with.

The Safe Option for Used Cars

If you're worried about falling for a scam, your best option when buying a used car is to go to a reputable dealer instead of dealing with individual sellers on sites like eBay.

What Are eBay Motors Scams?

You're interested in buying a car online, and find one on eBay that you may want to purchase. Unfortunately, the seller convinces you to send them money for the car before getting the chance to ask questions or inspect the vehicle. Once the seller receives the money, they stop all contact with you and never send you the car. 

You've lost your money, and you don't have a car—you've fallen victim to a common phony online car sales scam. Here's how the most common scams on eBay Motors work.

An eBay Motors Seller Gets Pushy About a Car Sale

The seller seems enthusiastic and responsive after you reach out to purchase their car online.

They answer your questions but try to pressure you into making an impulse purchase before even seeing the car in person. They may say they have other interested buyers or need to sell it right away because they're moving or need the money urgently. 

The Seller Asks for Payment via Non-Conventional Methods

Once you agree to purchase the car, the seller will immediately ask for payment. They may allow you to complete the transaction through eBay, but they'll more likely convince you to pay them with:

Example of What Scammers May Say

Thank you for buying my car. I want to sell as quickly as possible because my mother is very sick and I need the money, so you're getting a good deal. You can purchase gift cards from Walmart and pay us with those as it is easiest for us. Please send immediately and I will have the car shipped to you. 

Thank you for your understanding to not see the vehicle first as my mother is sick and I cannot show it to you.

You Send the Money, But You Never Get the Car

You send the payment, and then the seller stops responding and never delivers the car. The seller may also take down their post and delete their eBay account, so you're unable to track them down.

Not only do you not have the car you purchased, but you've now lost the money you sent them.

Or, You Send the Money and You're Sold a Dud

In some cases, you do receive the car, but there's something wrong with it. It might be:

  • Broken (in several places, such as the engine or air conditioner)
  • Stolen
  • Salvaged (i.e., worth much less than what you may have paid for it)
  • A different model year to what you were told

So, even though you have a car, it's not worth what you paid for it, and in some cases, it may get impounded. 

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Red Flags of eBay Motors Scams

Car scams can happen to anyone looking to purchase a car from eBay. They usually work because they make you think you're getting a great deal on a vehicle. Look out for ads on eBay with prices that are too good to be true.

Also, be wary of people who have a timeline for when they need to sell the car. Scammers use this tactic to pressure you into making a quick purchase, not allowing you time to consider other options or do your research first. Look out for ads where people ask you to pay them in gift cards, which is quite common.

Before you agree to buy a car hand over money, look out for these red flags of an eBay Motors scam:

  • A vague post containing a lot of errors.
  • Pushy sellers.
  • Requests for payment outside of eBay's system.
  • Inability to see the car in person. 
  • Requests for additional fees.
  • Promising eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection.
  • Refusals to share the VIN.
  • Sellers who are difficult to get in contact with.
  • A deal too good to be true.

Vague Post with Grammatical and Spelling Errors

If the post on eBay is incomplete or uses poor grammar, such as lots of exclamation points, it may not be a trustworthy seller. Also, be wary of posts with little or no pictures of the car or ask for gift cards as payment.

Example of an eBay Motors scam
Don't ever pay for a vehicle with gift cards—only transfer money through the eBay Motors site. (Source: ABC11)

Pushy Seller

It's natural to want to take time when making a large purchase like a car. A legitimate seller will understand you need some time to make a decision, but scammers will try to rush you into a sale. They may claim they have other offers, so you need to act fast. Or they may come off as threatening and convince you not to ask questions and send them money.

If someone is pressuring you to purchase, especially before seeing the car in person, stop communicating with them and look for another vehicle.

Request for Payment Outside of eBay's Protected System

If you're purchasing a car through eBay, you should complete the transaction through eBay. The main reason is that eBay offers Vehicle Purchase Protection on many vehicles sold through eBay. This means you may get a reimbursement if the seller commits fraud.

If the seller asks you to pay them with gift cards, Bitcoin, or a wire transfer, don't make the purchase. They're trying to work around eBay's fraud prevention to scam you.

Example of an eBay Motors scam
Red flags include payment through gift cards or other methods outside of eBay's system. (Source:

Refusal to Show You the Car in Person

It's common to want to inspect a car before purchasing it. If the seller refuses to meet in person or doesn't allow you to see the vehicle, don't go through with the purchase. Chances are, the seller doesn't have a car to sell you and is trying to steal your money.

Example of a eBay Motors scam
Sellers who can't meet you in person and will only communicate via email are likely scammers. (Source: eBay Community)

Request for Additional Fees

If you purchase a car and the seller starts asking for more money outside of the list price on eBay, don't pay them. Definitely don't pay them if you haven't seen the car yet. If you completed the transaction within eBay's system, you can report the seller and ask for reimbursement from the Vehicle Purchase Protection plan.

Promising eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection

Another layer of this scam is when a seller wants to complete eBay's sale outside of eBay but promises you'll still receive the Vehicle Purchase Protection. The eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection plan offers buyers protection from losing money due to fraud.

However, this program only covers you if you completed the transaction within eBay Motors. That means if you pay for the car outside of eBay's system, you won't be protected under eBay's policy. Scammers try to sell you the protection plan to make you more comfortable sending them money.

Example of a fake eBay Motors Purchase Protection email
Scammers will often send you fake Purchase Protection emails to trick you into thinking you're protected from fraud. (Source: The Auto Prophet)

Scammers will also explain why they can't show you the car in person and will limit their communication methods with you. 

Refusing to Share the VIN

Another related scam to look out for is people selling stolen cars. Everything about this sale may feel legitimate. They'll send you pictures, answer questions and even let you see the vehicle in person. However, once you purchase the car and take it home, you find out the vehicle is stolen, and police will need to confiscate it. 

In this scenario, the seller may still be wary about providing a VIN and ask you to complete the purchase outside of eBay.

How to Beat an eBay Motors Scam

Many scammers are out there looking to make quick money by selling cars they don't have. To beat these scams:

  • Only pay the seller using eBay Motors (don't complete transactions outside the system, or eBay's fraud protection won't cover you).
  • Don't pay with cash, wire transfer, gift cards, Bitcoin, or other methods outside what is accepted by eBay Motors.
  • Keep all communication within eBay's system—don't take the conversation off the platform.
  • Don't agree to buy a vehicle you haven't seen and inspected in person.

Purchasing a used car is a big decision. So before you send someone money, consider doing the following:

  • Research the seller before making a purchase: Try Googling the seller's name and email address (if you have it) and see what comes up. For example, if the seller has been scamming people with the same or similar names, you may find bad reviews about them online. You can also try searching their name with words like "review" or "scam."
  • Research the car advertised before purchasing: All vehicles have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can use this number to get a vehicle history report, which tells you who owns the car's title and if there have been insurance claims on the vehicle. You can request a car history report via the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System's website. It's probably a scam if:
    • The person on the title isn't the same as the person selling the car
    • Accidents have been reported that the seller didn't disclose to you
    • When you see the car in person, it has a different VIN to the one the seller gave you

Don't Trust Sellers Who Won't Give You the VIN

Be wary of sellers who refuse to give you the VIN or have excuses for why they can't share it. Even if they give you the vehicle's history report, it will probably be fake if they still refuse to provide you with the VIN.

Fallen Victim to an eBay Motors Scam?

If you've had the unfortunate experience of losing your money because of an eBay Motors scam, there are a few things you can do to try and get a full refund and stop the criminals.

File for an eBay Reimbursement

If you completed a transaction within eBay's system but didn't receive the car, file for reimbursement from the Vehicle Purchase Protection plan. This plan is put in place to protect buyers from fraud. You'll be able to get a refund if you don't receive the car or were sold a stolen or damaged car.

Even if you didn't complete payment through eBay, you could still report the scam to eBay. They'll be able to remove the post and ban the seller, preventing future frauds, but you probably won't get your money back.

Contact Details


Phone: 1-866-961-9253
Email: [email protected]

Verified Contact Details

It's important to verify links and contact details to beat imposters.

Report it to the FTC

Whether you've completed the purchase on eBay or you paid another way, you should report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You'll need to provide as much detail as possible, so be sure to save all communications you've had with the scammer.

Once you report the scam, the FTC will provide additional follow-up actions and further instructions, if there are any. They likely will not get you your money back, but reporting the fraud helps them protect others from falling victim to the same scam.

Report Scams to the Local Authorities

You may also wish to report the scam to your local police, providing them with the same information you gave the FTC. Many people choose to do this in cases where they've lost quite a lot of money. Again, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to get your money back, but you'll be helping law enforcement stop the scammers.

If you didn't pay through eBay Motors and don't have the car, you'll want to report the fraud to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Protect Yourself from Identity Fraud

If you think your sensitive information (e.g., your bank account information, address, etc.) is compromised, you'll want to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from identity theft. Although eBay Motors scams don't normally result in identity fraud, you never know what the scammer is up to.

They may even be able to find your sensitive information just by researching your user name, so it's always wise to err on the side of caution. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if the seller is legitimate?

Whenever you're purchasing through sites like eBay, you can never be 100% sure the seller is legit. However, you can look for red flags, do your research on the car and the seller, and ask to inspect the vehicle in person before making a purchase.

How do I get my money back if I never receive the car

If you completed the car transaction on eBay, you can file for reimbursement from the Vehicle Purchase Protection plan. If you paid with a check or money order, you can call your bank and ask them to void the transaction. Unfortunately, if you paid with gift cards or a wire transfer, there no way to get your money back.

Who do I report fraud to?

You should report eBay Motors scams to eBay as well as the Federal Trade Commission.

What do I do if I think I bought a stolen car?

If you believe the car you purchased may have been stolen, contact your local police department. You may be able to tell if the car was stolen by looking up the VIN and seeing if there are any alerts for the car.

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