Identified Scam:

Top Tips to Avoid eBay Motors Stolen Vehicles & Red Flags

Not all vehicles are what they seem on eBay—make sure you check the vehicle's background and mechanics before you buy or you could put yourself in hot water.
Updated 9 June 2021
Top Tips to Avoid eBay Motors Stolen Vehicles & Red Flags
Identified Scam:
Key Finding

Scammers are selling stolen vehicles on eBay and request payment outside of eBay.

Key Risk

You end up with a stolen vehicle you can't keep, and your transaction isn't protected by eBay so you lose your money. 

Sections on this page
  1. What is an eBay Motors Stolen Vehicle Scam?
  2. How to Beat and Avoid The eBay Motors Stolen Vehicle Scam
  3. Example of the eBay Motors Stolen Vehicle Scam
  4. Fallen for an eBay Motors Stolen Vehicle Scam?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

Ending up with a stolen vehicle after buying it on eBay Motors can be avoided as long as you do your research on the vehicle and only pay using eBay's system. eBay Motors stolen vehicles can be refunded as long as the payment was made within eBay's payment system.

What is an eBay Motors Stolen Vehicle Scam?

An eBay Motors stolen vehicle scam is where you buy a stolen car unknowingly. After winning the bid and paying the seller, you’re out the money you paid, and you’re also stuck with a stolen vehicle.

Here’s how the scam works.

You Buy a Vehicle on eBay

After you see a vehicle you’re interested in purchasing, you do your due diligence and check its vehicle identification number (VIN). What comes up matches the make, model, year, and color of the car in the listing, so you feel comfortable making this purchase.

Scammers can trick you by giving you a fake VIN or vehicle history report or provide you with one for a similar car, so you can’t tell that it’s stolen. Always order your own vehicle history report for the vehicle.

The Seller Requests Payment Outside of eBay

After you win the auction, the seller (i.e., the scammer) will ask you to pay outside of eBay’s system, using something like

  • Wire transfer (e.g., Western Union or MoneyGram)
  • Gift cards

They may even offer you a special protection plan, ensuring your payment is safe and secure.

In many situations, the seller may use pressure tactics to get you to commit to the purchase. For example, they may say they need to head out of town soon or that others outside of eBay are also interested in the vehicle (and willing to pay more).

Scammers will also provide reasons why they are unable to meet you in person, which can include things like are:

  • Out of town or about to leave town
  • Deployed overseas for the military
  • Going through some personal problems, such as a divorce
Example Message from Scammer

Sorry, I won't be able to show you the car in person as I'm currently deployed in another state. But I have someone who can organize the delivery of the car to you as soon as I receive payment. Please, because I am deployed, it's easiest if you send payment via MoneyGram. It's safe and secure. Once I receive payment I will have the car shipped to you and send you the tracking number. 

Please let me know asap when you can send payment as I have other offers waiting. 

You Pay the Seller and End Up with a Stolen Vehicle

Once they have your money, the seller may be hard or impossible to contact. Although they did deliver the vehicle, when you check the VIN, you notice it’s different from the number the seller initially provided.

When you check the actual vehicle history report, you realize it’s been reported as stolen and is, in fact, someone else’s property—the seller never had any right to sell it in the first place.

By the time you realize you’ve purchased an eBay Motors stolen vehicle, the thief has disappeared, and there is no way for you to contact them—you’re left without your money and with a stolen vehicle.

Your Transaction Isn’t Protected

Since you cannot contact the seller/scammer, you attempt to recover your loss by filing a claim with eBay. However, since you didn’t complete the transaction with eBay’s system, you aren’t covered by Vehicle Purchase Protection.

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How to Beat and Avoid The eBay Motors Stolen Vehicle Scam

The best way to beat this scam is to always complete your transaction using eBay’s payment system—don’t ever pay the seller through any other method.

If the seller refuses to accept payment via eBay’s online system, it’s most likely a scam and you should back out of the sale immediately.

Always keep these best practices in mind when buying vehicles via eBay Motors:

  • Only buy vehicles after you’ve seen and inspected them in person (or have had someone you trust do the inspection).
  • Check the VIN of the actual vehicle against that of the car in the listing to match other information, such as its repair and maintenance history, CarFax, or another report.
  • Always complete payment using eBay’s online system (don’t ever pay via wire transfer, gift cards, or other untraceable methods)
  • Order your own vehicle history report (scammers can create fake reports)

Always Pay Using eBay's System

If you do end up with a stolen vehicle, as long as you paid for it using eBay’s system, you’ll be covered up to $100,000 under the Vehicle Purchase Protection plan.

Red Flags of eBay Motors Stolen Vehicles

Before you commit to buying anything from eBay Motors, look out for these common red flags of scams:

  • A seller who only accepts payment by wire transfer, gift cards, or another method outside of eBay’s payment system.
  • A seller who asks you to pay money in addition to the sales price of the vehicle for any reason. (This may include a “fee” by the bank, taxes, or extra delivery fees.)
  • A pushy seller who pressures you to buy the vehicle quickly. This includes if they offer to lower the price to secure a faster sale.
  • A hard-to-reach seller.
  • A seller who refuses to meet you meet face-to-face or can’t show you the vehicle in person.
  • A seller who doesn’t want you to order your own vehicle history report.
  • A VIN that you can’t confirm or see for yourself.
  • A seller who won’t let you have the car inspected by yourself or a mechanic.
  • A price that’s too good to be true.
  • Poor grammar or punctuation in the listing (this isn’t always a sure sign of a scam).
  • A seller who is in a different location to the vehicle.
  • A seller claiming you can take advantage of a buyer protection program to secure your purchase.
  • A seller requesting to shift the transaction from one platform to another, such as from eBay to Craigslist.

Cross-check any documentation to verify that it matches the vehicle and not just the VIN but also other details, such as the interior color, exterior paint code (found on the inside of the door), features (such as sunroof, navigation system), and aftermarket accessories like custom headlights.

Example of the eBay Motors Stolen Vehicle Scam

In this example, there are several red flags of a scam:

  • The seller is offering to accept gift cards, specifically from Walmart, as a form of payment.
  • The price is very low for a vehicle of its age and apparent condition.
  • The seller is encouraging the buyer to expedite the payment process by submitting a photo of the front and back of their Walmart gift card.

Example of eBay Motors stolen vehicle scam
(Source: eBay Motors)

Although the listing says the transaction will be protected, this is false. Paying via Walmart gift cards will do the opposite, and there will be no protection or insurance on the purchase. 

This may not be a sure sign that the car is stolen, but it's definitely a sign of an eBay Motors scam. 

Fallen for an eBay Motors Stolen Vehicle Scam?

If you’ve fallen for an eBay Motors stolen vehicle scam, you should contact eBay. Although eBay’s Vehicle Purchase Protection program won’t cover your transaction, and you likely won’t be able to get your money back, your report can help eBay protect others from this scammer.

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.

If you did complete the purchase using eBay’s payment system, you can file a reimbursement request to get your money back. Your purchase may be covered for up to $100,000.

You should also report the scam to:

  • Your local authorities (also to return the stolen vehicle)
  • The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) arm of the FBI
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I check if the vehicle being sold on eBay is stolen?

Ask the seller for the vehicle identification number (VIN), so you can run a vehicle history report. If the vehicle has been reported stolen, it will show up on this report. 

How do I get a vehicle history report?

Once you have the VIN for the car, you can order a vehicle history report from companies like AutoCheck and CarFax. You'll likely need to pay a fee, but it's worth it, especially if it saves you from buying a stolen vehicle.

What if the seller offers to give me the vehicle history report?

Even if a seller offers to give you the vehicle history report, you should always order your own. Scammers can create fake vehicle history reports easily and make you believe you're buying a legitimate vehicle when you're not.

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