Although advertising your car on the internet might seem like the simplest route to sale, selling a car online means motorists need to be a little more vigilant – especially when it comes to scams, rip-offs, and fraudsters.

With the days of placing a classified ad in the paper now a thing of the past, there's a whole host of traps and pitfalls to navigate when it's time to sell. To help you keep your wits about you, we'll take a look at the most common car selling scams out there – as well as how to spot them.

"I don't need to see it"

Buying a car unseen isn't unheard of, but it's still strange if you ask us. If you're in contact with someone who's ready to buy your vehicle without seeing it for themselves first, we'd say that's a cause for concern.

Should the purchase go ahead, the buyer may be involved in an accident (or deliberately prang it) and then claim it was already damaged when they bought it. They'll then try to make you pay for the damage – even though you know full well it wasn't your fault.

How can I avoid this scam?

Make sure to describe your car as accurately and extensively as possible when creating your advert online, including any faults with the vehicle.

Ideally, you should be wary of anyone who claims they don't need to see the car in person. When finding buyers who would like to view your car for themselves, you can always ask them to sign a "sold as seen" receipt before a sale is agreed.

"I'm abroad right now but I can pay online"

Certain scammers will try and pay for your car using online payment methods like PayPal. If you've paid for items online before using these types of transactions, it might seem like nothing fishy. However, alarm bells should be ringing when they say they work for a large, well-known company to make themselves appear trustworthy and legitimate.

They'll also pepper in legitimate questions regarding the vehicle and its condition to make them sound more believable.

However, shortly after you close the deal, you might receive a fake receipt masked as a genuine email, purporting to be PayPal themselves. Don't be fooled: no money has been sent.

The scammer will then ask you to ship the car or to organise a freight company to pick up the vehicle for them. Effectively, they'll have a car without having paid a single penny.

A similar scam involves the buyer claiming they've paid but the online payment service provider is holding the money until you ship the car.

How can I avoid this scam?

Watch out for email receipts in general, and before you part with your car, always make sure the money has gone into your bank account first.

"I think I've overpaid you. Can you refund me the extra?"

Here, the fraudster will send you a cheque, pay via bank transfer or send you money online, but end up overpaying "by mistake", of course.

They'll then ask you to pay them back the difference, but the cheque was in fact forged, the bank transfer never took place or the payment receipt you've received to your email is phoney.

How can I avoid this scam?

Before you end up refunding the overpaid amount, simply wait until the cheque clears, the bank transfer reaches your account, or log in to the payment website for further information.

"Don't suppose you could knock a few quid off?"

With this scam, the fraudster is attempting to undervalue the car in the hopes you'll think the price you're asking for isn't realistic. To make themselves even more legit, they may even bring an "expert" with them to carry out checks when viewing the vehicle.

After carrying out their phoney inspection, they'll both try to convince you that the car isn't worth the money, because there are things that need fixing. The long game of such scams involves the scammer putting the car back on the market, where they'll sell it for much more than they paid.

How can I avoid this scam?

You can easily outsmart the fraudsters by having your car inspected beforehand to identify any issues, and do a bit of research around how much other drivers are selling the same model for so you can be sure of its true value.

The test drive scam

This scam goes a little something like this: they'll ask to test drive the car, suggesting you drive first. When it's time to switch seats, they'll slide across from the passenger side and drive off, leaving you behind.

How can I avoid this scam?

If you find yourself in this situation, then always take the keys out of the ignition and keep them on your person whenever you get out of the car.

And remember, you'll need to check that they have adequate insurance cover before you let them drive anyway. If they don't, well, there's no chance they're getting behind the wheel, scam or not.

The buyer's identity: Things to look out for

If you can determine the buyer is genuine from the outset, then you greatly reduce the chances of being ripped off. Luckily, there are a few telltale signs to look out for.

Generally, if you receive a phone call from a landline number (you can dial 1471 to find out), then the seller is more likely to be legitimate compared to if they called from a mobile.

Likewise, if their email address contains their full name, as opposed to a string of random letters and numbers, then they're less likely to be a scammer.

And if you do meet with anyone, then always ask them to bring some proof of identification along with them when they come to view the car. A genuine seller will have no problem, of course. But a scammer? They'll probably be put off by such a request.

Top tips for protecting yourself online

Stay vigilant and safe when selling your car using these quick pointers:

-Thoroughly describe the car when writing your advert

-Use search engines to check the buyer's phone number and email if in doubt

-Take your time with money transfers and cheques

-Don't let other people pay for the car on the buyer's behalf

Sell to respected, recognised buyers

Completely removing the risk of being scammed, undervalued, tricked or swindled, seek out a respected, recognised buyer. At Brindley Group, it’s easy to find an honest and fair valuation for your car, simply head over to our Value your Vehicle page, enter a few details and you’ll be sent a price we’d be willing to pay for your car. We offer safe and secure payment, guaranteed prices and a fast, simple process to help you sell your car without any stress.

Looking for more from the Brindley Group? Click here to check out all our news from the motoring world, or if you’re in the market for a new car, see how we can help at our homepage.