12 On Your Side: Augusta mom lured by Craigslist car scam

News 12 at 6 o'clock / July 15, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A single mom looking to buy an affordable vehicle for her daughter found herself caught up in an online car buying scheme.

"She had her car stolen a while back so we were going to replace it," said Melisa Burbine.

So, they took their search online to Craigslist where they found a seller in Columbia, South Carolina.

"A 2005 Nissan Maxima. $81,000 miles for $1,821," Burnbine said.

Apparently a real steal, or is it? We did some investigating by looking up the resale value for the 2005 Nissan Maxima with just 81,000 miles and in fair condition. A private seller could fetch $7,500 for that car. So why would anyone sell it so cheap?

"The son had died in a bicycling accident and it was just too painful to keep looking at, and they wanted to get rid of it, which is why it was so cheap," Burnbine said.

That is the story Burbine said she was told. A story that she believed. To finalize the deal, the person on the other end of the email instructed Burbine to load $1,821 on some Green Dot MoneyPaks, and email the numbers on the back of the card. Afterwards, the car would be ready for delivery.

"They would ship it. I tried to tell them I'm only like an hour away. I will be more than happy to come up and get it," said Burbine. She said she was told the car was already prepped for shipping, so Burbine sent the email. But it was not over.

"We got back a really nasty text about, hey fat (expletive). You will never get this car," Burnbine said.

That is when Burbine realized she was being scammed. She thought quickly. "We called and canceled the cards, and then communicated back to them, saying you'll never get the money," Burnbine said.

While Burbine is the one laughing in the end, she said her next car shopping experience will be face-to-face.

"I'm not buying anything that isn't local that I can't walk up and physically touch, and physically see," Burnbine said.

So, is it really ever safe to buy a car online? It can be a safe experience but, before buying a car online, do your homework and read the personal safety sections on any website that you are buying and or selling goods through. Most have advice on how to avoid being scammed. including never sending money to someone you do not know.

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