Going Topless: Bring out the Scammers and Sleezeballs


In this installment, Amy Tokic goes head to head with online car listings, and comes away disappointed. Need to catch up? You can follow her adventures in car shopping as a single woman in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.

This was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in a long time. I loved both the Volkswagen Eos and the Mazda Miata. The Miata is so cute and sporty – I can see myself scooting around in it during the summer. But the Eos is sleek and classy… and it appeals to my sensible side (yes I do have one, though it prefers to stay out of the limelight and comes out only in the dead of night).

Both of the cars are priced about the same, as the retractable hardtop is considered an upgrade in the Miata. So price wouldn’t be a deciding factor. And it was more than just about looks – I think both are hot and sexy in their own way. What it came down to was safety – what car would I feel safer driving in the winter? And this is where the Eos really pulled ahead.

Now that I had settled on a model, it was time to start pricing out the used cars. Aiming for a 2007 to 2012 model, a used Eos ranges from about $11,240 to $42,264. This is in Canadian dollars, so in the US, similar featured cars I found ranged from $9,995 to $40,205. These cars came with varying degrees of options, as well as miles, from as little as 62 miles (100 km) to as much as 109,000 miles (175,000 km). I aimed for the middle – under $25,000 with as few miles and as many options as possible.

I decided to start my search by looking at non-Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars – this involved heading to neighborhood dealerships and contacting private sellers. Now, let me just preface this by pointing out that these are just the experiences I had with dealerships and private sellers. They in no way are meant to stereotype either of these types of sellers. It just so happened that my experiences were not at all positive. Yep, I sure can pick ‘em.

Let’s start with the private sellers. I never did make it out to meet any of the individuals who were selling these cars. That’s because they never existed. That’s right – I picked out the two scammers on the site.

I found these cars on a popular auto listing website. I should have been wary of the listings because of the lower listing prices. Both listings boasted the lowest prices of the used Eos, which should have sounded the alarm bells, but I’m claiming the noob defence.

Let’s start with the first Eos. It was a black 2008 Eos with about 31,000 miles on it, for just $11,500. No accidents, fully featured and about an hour away from where I lived. I sent the seller an email, asking for more information. “Barbara” wrote back fairly quick, stating that the car was in perfect condition. She was selling it at such a low price because she had moved to Europe, but it was still in Canada, ready to be shipped to me. Remember, this was my first encounter with a car scammer, but something didn’t sit right with me. I told her that I’d get back to her in a few days, but before I could, she sent me another email. This one informed me that she had a third party to handle the money transaction and that the car was in Vancouver in storage. This wasn’t the original city listed – Vancouver is a little too far for me to drive to. So basically, she wanted me to deposit the money in an account without seeing it. Yeah, that wasn’t going to fly. I reported the listing to the site and it was taken down – I never saw or heard from Barbara again.

The next one came a few weeks later. This one was a 2007 Eos in dark grey, again in perfect working order, with 30,000 miles, an asking price of $11,240 and was located 30 minutes from my place. This time, I had an inkling that something was amiss. I sent an email asking what was wrong with the car, since it was being sold at such a low price. “Malisa” got back to me with a similar story – she had moved out of the country after a divorce and she wanted to get rid of the car. And even though the listing was for Canada, for some strange reason, the car was being held in South Carolina. So all I had to do was transfer money to a third party (eBay) and the car would be mine. I reported her to the site as a scam, but at press time, the listing was still there. I hope no one gets fooled by this one.

There were a few things that both these listings had in common. They were both the lowest prices for the Eos and they were both being sold by “women.” And I was surprised by the quality of writing in the emails. They were well written – proper grammar usage, no misspelled words and comprehensible. In my experience, they didn’t come off as your typical email scammer. As well, these women had to leave the country and wanted to work with a third party to handle the sale. So it seems like there is a template out there for car scammers… good to know.

A great tip passed along by Editor-in-Chief Colum Wood is to copy and paste the text from email you receive into Google. I did that with mine and numerous pages popped up that let me know this was a scam. So when I said there was a template out there for scammers to follow, I wasn’t kidding.

Things Learned:

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. It would have been amazing to get an Eos at such a good deal, but a discount should be the main reason you go with a particular car. Before you agree to purchase a car from a private seller, go see it in person. Don’t rely on a third party to ensure your transaction is legal. In fact, the listing site I found these cars on recommends meeting the seller in person to pay for purchases.

Next Up:

Perpetuating the slimy user car dealer stereotype, as well as tips to arm yourself with before you go in.