Everywhere 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.