• Luke Jensen

Protect yourself from scams

I was speaking with one of my clients recently and they shared their story of a very near-miss with a scammer whilst trying to sell their car. Scams are particularly topical in the media at the moment and I thought it worth sharing my clients’ experience as a reminder of how scams continue to evolve and become more and more sophisticated.



Seller beware

In this case, the clients had listed their vehicle for sale on carsales.com.au, a well-established and reputable online platform. Their ad had been in place for a few weeks when they were contacted by an interested buyer who wanted to proceed with the purchase. The clients had some initial misgivings as the buyer was living in a remote area and asked if all correspondence could be done via email due to poor reception. The buyer also asked if the clients had a Hotmail or Outlook account that they could use, rather than their Gmail account - so already there were some slight concerns. Even the copy of the buyer’s drivers licence that was requested by the clients to provide proof of location was ultimately discovered to be fraudulent.


The buyer advised the clients that he had made the payment of the agreed purchase price to PayPal, who would then release the funds to the clients once the freight company had collected the vehicle. The clients were provided with an email from PayPal confirming the amount had been received from the seller.


The buyer then contacted the clients asking them to pay the freight component directly to the freight company, assuring them that the additional amount would be added to the balance held by PayPal, again, supported by an updated email from PayPal. Bank account details of the freight company were provided to the clients for them to make the payment.


At this point the clients were more than a little suspicious and began to do some research. They searched for the website of the freight company which immediately re-directed them to another freight company’s website. In contacting the freight company, they discovered that there was no connection between the two companies.


The clients then contacted PayPal, wanting to verify whether the emails had indeed been issued by PayPal. PayPal were able to confirm that the emails were fraudulent but also advised that they do not hold funds for release upon a condition being met. They simply facilitate direct payments between a buyer and seller.


A little research on carsales.com.au also uncovered very helpful information on current scams, including the trending scam of being asked to pay for freight separately.


How to protect yourself

When it comes to protecting yourself from scams, start with your instincts. Most of us are familiar with the “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” expression, but my clients would also add to this, “if something seems the slightest bit strange, then it probably is”. Whilst it can be easy to become caught up in the emotions of selling or buying, there are 3 key types of requests that should raise red flags:


Have you been asked to?


  1. Move money

  2. Make an unexpected payment (as was the case here)

  3. Provide personal information



Being a reputable online platform, the assumption was that it should be safe, however this experience has taught the clients that any online marketplace probably has a risk, and that the marketplace itself will more than likely have the most current information on scams involving their website or platform. It’s worth checking out the scams section of any online marketplace before you use it so you can be forearmed.


I have provided a link to an excellent article that provides more detail on the current scamming trends but please just let me know if you have any questions.


Contact the Propel Financial Advice team