It’s an exciting time in the RV world. The COVID-19 pandemic has more Americans than ever ditching flights and cruises for good old-fashioned road trips and camping. And as many first-time RVers look to buy their first rig, there’s been an explosion in another more unpleasant phenomenon – RV scams.
We took a close look at how these scammers are trying to separate you from your money and what you can do to stay safe when buying an RV.
The BBB Warns of RV Scams Costing Several Thousands of Dollars
These RV scams are no joke. A recent BBB notice warns of one scam that cost would-be buyers more than $12,000! This particular scammer lured people to a fraudulent website from Craigslist ads.
Victims are told they need to send the money by wire or bank transfer, and when the equipment they order doesn’t show up, get excuses about delayed shipping before the scammers disappear altogether.
Online RV Scams
The era of online shopping has meant more and easier opportunities for RV scams preying upon trusting buyers. Sadly, wherever you can find RVs for sale, you’ll find scammers lurking.
Facebook RV Scams
Facebook scams often rely on posts on Facebook Marketplace or in groups. Fraudsters will sometimes post in multiple areas to maximize the number of potential victims they can reach.
Craigslist RV Scams
Craigslist is one of the most common places for scammers to ply their trade. It’s effortless because of the high amount of traffic, ease of listing, and relative anonymity granted to listers. RV scams will often direct you to external sites or attempt to get your money via email or phone conversations.
OfferUp and Other Selling Apps
As more marketplaces have opened up, scammers have expanded their reach as well. OfferUp is geared at buying and selling in a local area. This leads to buyers putting too much trust in sellers and getting in trouble. You should be wary of a potential RV scam in any marketplace where RVs are sold.
How to Avoid Online RV Scams
There are undoubtedly many scammers out there, but there’s no reason you need to be their next victim. With a few simple rules, you can reduce your risk of getting scammed to nearly zero.
If It Seems To Good To Be True, It Is
What’s true in life is also true in RV sales. If you find a very low price or an outstanding deal on a rig, step back for a moment and consider why this might be the case. After all, it’s infrequent that you’ll find someone willing to leave money on the table out of the goodness of their heart.
If you’re unsure, get an opinion from your family or friends or any RV groups or forums you may be a part of. Never blindly trust a seller. If you have unanswered questions or concerns, it’s best to back off and find another RV.
Be Wary of Sob Stories
You may come across some of those great deals we just mentioned that have a buyer with some sort of sad or persuasive story explaining why.
This can range from claiming they’re selling for a terminally ill friend or family member who needs the cash to claiming the previous buyer fell through, and the seller needs to complete the sale quickly. These things may be true, and you might get a good deal for helping a seller solve their problem. However, you should be generally wary of these kinds of stories and make sure you do your homework before proceeding.
Only One or Two Images
If you’ve ever browsed RV listings online, chances are you’ve seen one or two with so few pictures or ones of such lousy quality that make you wonder who would ever buy it.
Sellers know you want to know what the RV looks like, so be cautious if the pictures are few and of bad quality. Before moving forward, get the seller to show you around either in person or through live video via services like Facetime, Skype, or Zoom. Generally, an RV is a significant investment.
You want to make sure you’ve gotten a good look at every inch before handing over your money. If the seller doesn’t do this, you can safely assume there’s a good reason and back off.
Email Addresses or Phone Numbers Photoshopped Onto Images
This can be another telltale sign of an RV scam at work. This can be done by unscrupulous scammers posting their listing in as many forums as possible, seeking to snare as many potential victims as they can with easy-to-find contact information.
It can also be a sign that scammers stole the photos of other legitimate listings and are using them for fraud.
Seller Asking For Partial or Full Payment Up Front And Promising To Deliver RV
With most payment methods demanded by these scammers, once you turn your money over, there’s no way to get it back if things go wrong. That’s why RV scams generally ask for some or all of your payment upfront before the RV is even delivered.
They’ll likely have some excuse as to why they need the cash before delivering (from clearing old tickets or fines to needing gas money to transport), but you should stand firm and ask to have the RV delivered before handing over any money.
Research The Seller and RV
Find out everything you can about the seller and the RV. For the seller, this can range from a quick Google search to a more involved background check. You want to make sure they have no history of consumer complaints, lawsuits, or even worse, fraud or other crimes.
Just because someone has a checkered past doesn’t mean they’re necessarily trying to scam you if everything else checks out. But it’s an essential piece of the puzzle in assessing the situation.
You’ll also want to research the RV. The easiest way to do this is to have the seller send you the VIN (vehicle identification number) and do a search using services like Carfax or Faxvin. These services don’t provide a complete picture, so ask the seller to provide records of maintenance, storage, and other vital issues.
If they can’t or won’t do this, consider it a major red flag. It’s also generally a good idea to have any used RV you’re buying inspected by a licensed inspector.
When In Doubt, Back Out
If something doesn’t feel right, back out. There’s no sense risking your hard-earned money if you’re not satisfied everything is on the level.
As they say, there are plenty more fish in the sea, and a little more shopping to find that perfect RV won’t hurt much. Certainly not as much as losing thousands in an RV scam!
Don’t Get Scammed
Becoming the victim of an RV scam can be devastating. You can end up several thousand dollars poorer and undoubtedly warier of dealing with strangers.
But it doesn’t have to happen to you! By keeping these simple principles in mind, you can avoid becoming the easy prey that scammers thrive on.
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