Used Motorcycles Online Scams

motorcyclescamEverywhere you look it’s a buyer’s market. And a lot of sellers are desperate to sell. And of course it’s true for “pre-loved” motorcycles traded online. With so many bikes and parts listed on so many websites ( eBay & Cycle Trader are the 2 largest), don’t expect these sites to disclose frauds commited daily.  They want your business and don’t carry any responsibility or liability.

It is amazing to observe that most of  these scams are repeated over and over and that traders continue to fall for them again and again. Of course there are always new fraudulent tactics to steal your dollars, but at least know the basic rules you must absolutely follow when buying or selling online  a used motorcycle.

1- Never, never, never accept a money order or cashier check. Even a bank is unable to identify a real cashier check or money order until…it’s not paid. It’s not their responsibility to check on the authenticity of a financial instrument, except bills and coins. The money will appear in your account but disappear as soon as the check bounce and it can take 1 or 2 weeks for your check to clear and up to one month for a fake money order. The only exception is if the buyer  get it prepared front of you in a bank or in a legitimate money order issuing place. Also, do you know that there are ways to stop a cashier check before you have the time to deposit it at your bank?

2- You know that it is too good to be true but you continue to think it’s true because it makes you feel good to imagine that you are smarter than another buyer. For example if the seller’s offer is too cheap, well below today’s market value, it may be a scam.

3- You are the buyer but the seller of the bike is not the owner. He just uses pictures taken from another website. Hint, be careful when you see a picture of a bike shot front of a house covered of snow or with plates from New Mexico when the seller is located in Florida. Yes, it’s possible, but you should ask a lot of questions.

4- You are the seller and you languish front of your computer screen because you get no or only a couple of very low bids. All at once, towards the end of of the auction, you receive a bid for exactly what you wanted or above…The consequent adrenaline boost can blind you through the entire money transaction process…

5- You can always communicate with the buyer or seller via the email service of the online classified website, but you should also request a direct email, and see if it works, if your emails are replied to. Also request a direct phone number. Not a warranty, but many scams list fake emails and phone numbers.

6- The buyer is overseas. That may be fine except if you see (easy to check online) that the price of your bike is about the same he would pay in his country. You should wonder why he wants to buy yours. Or this potential foreign buyer (tell me why foreign buyers always look richer to you?) has a complicated story like this one  frequently used by scammers. He has a close friend in the US who will take care of the shipment of your bike to him, for example somewhere in Europe. His good friend in the States owes him money, let’s say $8000 and you agreed to sell your bike for $6000. So, the foreign buyer proposes that his friend writes a $8000 cashier check to you and proposes that you write a cashier check to him for $2000. Your $2000 cashier check  is good, but his for $8000 is phony. You lost your bike + $2000. Always avoid 3rd party transactions. Be careful of “escrow companies” to hold the funds, except if you can choose it. Avoid, as much as possible, buying or selling long distance except if you intend to travel to the place of the transaction. Scams are local, too, but easier to identify.

8- How many buyers don’t check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) against the actual motorcycle, or don’t check that they get a clean title (no bank loan, no judgment, no mechanical lien like motorcycle work not paid to a shop).  Unfortunately, a lot.  Be aware of the consequence of a title marked “salvaged” (bike was totaled) because it can make the motorcycle lose most of its value. Don’t sign over a title when you receive the funds (except cash, but you need to have the bills checked first front of you at your bank). Sign the title over only when the money proceeds have cleared (a transaction appearing on your bank account doesn’t  mean that the money yet belongs to you).

9- Be suspicious of sellers asking for big down payments. Don’t give any down payment until everything is clear. Or give a very low one until you check everything.

Any scam you know. that you have avoided? Tell me to help protecting other readers.

17 Responses to “Used Motorcycles Online Scams”

  1. 1 Boss Hawg Dec 6th, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Cyril…I had this exact same issue on I sent the editors an email advising them of the fraudulent advertisement 2 months age….Guess what…NO RESPONSE!

    The 2007 Road King Screaming Eagle is still there listed today! Here is the link for your viewers.

    This one is a very typical example to avoid. Bike is in Canada (you bet not) and now the seller has moved to London and said he took the bike there with him. We communicated through my personal email address that I do not give out readily (Guess what…I am now being spammed with you name it…Viagara, Cialis, etc….). Seller was reluctant to send me the VIN…When (assumed he), he did I asked for the address and told him I would have a licensed surveyor come take a look at the bike. Well guess what…no more communications from the seller.

    And of course since does not respond and continues to publish (as of the time of this writing which is about 2 months after I emailed the editors) the classified speaks volumes to me that does not care either…just looking for traffic to their site and it shows that they condone fraudulent advertisements on their website, too!

    Buyer beware…unless you need the little blue pill…

    Boss Hawg

  2. 2 Jeremy Dec 6th, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Online classified ads websites starve for the listing fee and don’t care if the seller or buyer is a crook. They don’t want scams to be disclosed (eBay has always strongly opposed disclosing the number of frauds and complaints they receive). There are so many bikes for sale everywhere that I don’t see why to bother and risk online fraud. I have several friends who were scammed on parts sold online. Transaction paid on PayPal, but seller send a box with equivalent part weight inside, not the part. When the buyer complains, seller pretends that the part was inside and that the buyer took it and lies. No way to prove anything.

  3. 3 Dave Blevins Dec 6th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    I have been an Ebay seller since 2002 and here are some tips for online buyers…
    1. When you make a purchase on Ebay, don’t pay that instant, look over your invoice and see if the seller has posted a phone number, call the number to check its validity. If that number works, you can get to a person to resolve an issue (or have authorities find them if necessary).
    2. Check the seller’s feedback rating before you buy, this is information left by previous buyers about their purchase and can not be faked by the seller.
    3. Check to see if the seller is VERIFIED. Verification is a process sellers go through to provide Ebay an actual address, and it involves the verification of a seller’s bank account… while the bank account information is not viewable by the purchaser, it does allow legal recourse through Ebay and local law enforcement. If the seller is not VERIFIED, DO NOT BUY.
    4. Ask questions, if you get no response or an ambigious one, DO NOT BUY.
    5. If it is a large amount of money and the seller won’t allow you pick up in person, insisting it can only be shipped, RED FLAG. It may be a legit deal but lets face it, better to be safe and move on to another deal (there’s always another deal).
    6. If the purchase is for a motorcycle, arrange for payment when picked up, I have sold bikes and shipped them for customers but I don’t like doing it. It costs buyers a lot and takes a long time to get your bike, these days it is a buyer’s market so buy closer to home and go pick it up… it is easier on the mind and the wallet.

  4. 4 Electra Glide In Blue Dec 6th, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    I got ripped on a ebay deal for a custom build frame. I checked the guy out, an up and coming builder with a good reputation. He had several builds featured in some biker mags, good feedback on the bay. After waiting six months for the build that I was told would take 4 to 6 weeks I noticed his reputation was going by the wayside. He finally fessed up and said he couldn’t complete the deal or give a refund so I disputed the charge through my CC company. Lucky my CCard refunded all my money back to my account. I had saved all the emails between the seller and myself. It’s important to log all communication especially the expected date of delivery.

  5. 5 Jeremy Dec 6th, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Electra Glide In Blue. I think all readers should know the name of this builder. Thank you to publish it.

  6. 6 thealaskan Dec 6th, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Indeed… thanks for the report EGBlue, but by all means disclose the names of anyone involved in a gone bad transaction… not just fraudsters !

  7. 7 thealaskan Dec 6th, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Incidentally, forgot to mention…………. great article Cyril. I thought it was going to be just another sterile do’s and don’t list, but you bring up some up some newer and easily overlooked points to beware.

  8. 8 Big Ben Dec 7th, 2009 at 7:30 am

    All good advice!

    I am based in Australia and just received a nice 107″ softail bought on EBAY from a guy in Kansas.

    It is possible to have these deals go right but I sent and received a lot of emails before commiting my money.

    If you are computer savvy (I am!) you do what I do. As soon as I had the sellers name and the supposed location (Wichita) I got onto Google and started searching. Took about 30 mins to obtain his address, telephone number, which matched what he had emailed me, and to look up the address on Google earth. Nice house with same driveway and front porch as in the EBAY pics. Few more emails and a scan of the title paper emailed to me and I was set.

    Small deposit to show good faith via paypal and remainder via wire transfer and the bike was mine.

    Not all International buyers arre fraudsters and not all sellers are scam artists – the skill is in recognising the good from the bad.

    Now anyone got a couple of 2007 screaming eagle VRods for sale?

  9. 9 The Supreme Team Dec 7th, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    And don’t forget all the clowns in Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland wanting to buy 5 of this and 8 of that via email…all the emails look the same, so be aware. They come from different locations, but ask the same questions the first time around. If you say yes, they will come back with an order for large numbers of whatever. I’m incluiding a cut and paste of one of my fiascos…thankfully I caught onto him the first time as soon as he asked for 5 of something…NOBODY’s buying 5 of anything in this economy…LOL.
    Take care and keep a sharp eye out!

    Subject: inquires

    Dear Mr/Mrs.Sales,

    How are you today.
    Introducing my name is Sammuel chan.
    I am domiciled and have a small shop in Singapore.
    Actually I’m looking for some products to the needs of my shop.
    Previously I would like to ask you:

    – Do you accept payment by credit card?
    – Could you ship my order quickly to Singapore?

    Let me know your answer before i let you know what product that i need.
    I will waiting your information and thank you for your attention.

    Sammuel, Singapore

    …TO WHICH I REPLIED-yes, we can ship there and yes we accept credit cards….

    Dear Bill R

    How are you today,Thanks for your reply.
    Ok,I will buy from you :

    – SUPREME LEGENDS RETRO BELT DRIVE Polish (Complete/Ready to use) Qty: 2 Sets
    – Supreme Legends Hammerhead Mid-Control C-200-30S-180-P Qty : 8 Sets

    Please let me know about the total cost include express shipping to Singapore.
    I will payment by credit caerd visa.
    I will send my credit card details for payment after that.
    Please inform me sooner.


  10. 10 The Supreme Team Dec 7th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    If you have any questions about those emails…do yourself the favor and call the credit card company. Anybody from out of country, I just ask them for the CC info up front before I even consider playing cat and mouse over the email. Good luck!

  11. 11 Doc Robinson Dec 7th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Hey Big Ben
    What are you going to do with a bike that you cannot legally register in Australia?

  12. 12 JP@MyEvilTwinChoppers Dec 7th, 2009 at 5:53 pm


    That was my question! I’ve sold 3 bikes in Australia and they all had to be 1988 or older or custom builds


    Alot of these scams are easy to see through, no brainers. The one that kills me is all the people that tell me they paid the $500 deposit to a guy on Ebay with 10 pieces of feedback and poof he disappeared. PayPal will reimburse you if you go through them, but check and see what the seller has purchased and how long they have been a member. 10 tooth brushes = 10 pieces of positive feedback.

    Avoid scams, buy all your stuff local from the little guys ! 😉


  13. 13 1 JOKER Dec 7th, 2009 at 7:27 pm


  14. 14 mikydwarf Dec 7th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Wecome to the real world at least thats how it was put to me after i got scamed on a bike i bought and now with it sitting in a shed not running and a few thou to fix it and disability only going so far to have a roof and food buyer be ware is mildly putting it. thanks E BAY..

  15. 15 Big Ben Dec 9th, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Hey Doc,

    The 107″ is a 1987 Softail = no problems there!

    As for the 2007’s – compliance plating!

    A few extra hoops to jump through but no biggie if you plan ahead and go in eyes wide open……….

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