SHELBY COUNTY, Ind. -- If you choose the wrong seller and fall for a scam, online shopping can cost you thousands of dollars you can't get back.
Bonnie Evans was looking for a used Jeep on Facebook Marketplace recently when she found a listing that looked like a steal.
"The Jeep (was) flawless," Evans said.
Unfortunately, Evans very quickly learned the meaning of a popular saying.
"If it seems like it's too good to be true, it's probably too good to be true," Evans said.
Evans figured out she was being scammed after the supposed seller told her to email his aunt, who owned the Jeep.
"She gave me this story that, 'My husband recently died unexpectedly of a heart attack, I just can’t bear to look at it,' and then came back and said, 'I’ll even let it go for $1,000 instead of $2,000,'" Evans said.
Evans was suspicious, but then the woman sent her an invoice that looked like it was from eBay, with a money back guarantee.
"That looked so professional that I was like, 'Okay, well, this does look legitimate,'" Evans said.
That's when she looked at the find print and realized that she was being told to pay for the car in eBay gift cards.
"That seemed really odd to me. You’re not going to make a real, honest payment on a vehicle with gift cards," Evans said.
Tim Maniscalo, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana, agreed, saying any stranger who asks you to pay them with gift cards is almost certainly trying to scam you.
"It’s just like giving someone cash. They can go immediately use that and there’s no way to trace that," Maniscalo said.
Maniscalo was also not surprised by the seller's story about her husband's sudden death, saying that is a common tactic among scammers online.
"Scammers use emotion against us," Maniscalo said.
CBS4 Problem Solvers sat down with Evans to learn how to spot the scam. She said after she caught the first one, she started to find the same pattern over and over again on Facebook Marketplace. The postings seemed to be between $1,000 and $2,000, with 80-90,000 miles on the car, and photos that looked pristine. When you send the seller a message, you get an immediate reply saying their relative or neighbor is selling the car and giving an email address.
"It made me sad that it’s that prevalent," Evans said. "I’m not saying I wouldn’t utilize (this) method anymore, but definitely I’m a lot more apprehensive."
Maniscalo suggests that you do not pay for a car if you can't see it in person first. You should also look up the Car Fax and Kelley Blue Book value to see the history of the car and make sure it's being sold for an appropriate price, rather than way under asking price like in Evans' case.
You can find more information about scams like this from eBay at the link here.
If you do come across this type of scam, report it to the BBB through their Scam Tracker tool at the link here.
If you have a tip or case you'd like us to consider, contact the CBS4 Problem Solvers team at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.