Marketplace Scams: The Rise of the Fake Vehicle History Report

Selling a motorcycle online can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Platforms like Kijiji, Autotrader, and Facebook Marketplace make it easy to reach potential buyers, but they also attract scammers. One of the most common scams involves vehicle history reports. If you're not careful, a simple request for documentation that your motorcycle has a clean history can lead you straight into various vehicle history report scams.

This scam usually starts with an "interested buyer" who asks you to purchase a VIN (vehicle identification number) report from a specific, suspicious website. Their goal? To steal your credit card information and personal data. Understanding vehicle history report scams and recognizing the warning signs can help you protect yourself when selling your motorcycle online.

A concerned person looking at a laptop with a big red alert that says "SCAM" on the screen, sitting at a desk with a coffee cup and notebook.


Understanding the Fake Vehicle Report Scam

What is a Vehicle History Report and Where Can You Get a Legit One?

A vehicle history report is like a detailed biography of your motorcycle. It includes crucial information such as accident and repair history, recall notices, title status, and sometimes service records. Potential buyers often request these reports to ensure they aren't buying a motorcycle with hidden issues.

In Canada, Carfax is the main trusted provider of vehicle history reports. A Carfax report is essential for potential buyers, helping them make informed decisions and avoid purchasing motorcycles or cars online which have problematic histories. There have been many horror stories in Canada involving the purchase of a used motorcycle or car with a lien on it or that has been declared salvage. The importance of purchasing a vehicle history report if you're buying a motorcycle or car online can not be overstated.

How the Scam Works

Here’s how the scam typically unfolds: You list your motorcycle for sale online, and soon an interested buyer contacts you. They typically reach out via text message and ask a few standard questions before requesting a vehicle history report. Some may also ask for the motorcycle or car's vehicle identification number. So far, everything may seem normal. The twist comes when the buyer insists that you obtain the vehicle history report from a specific, unfamiliar website.

These scam websites lure sellers into paying for fake reports. Fake online companies called “VIN Report online,” “Car History Report,” and clones of the NMVTIS website are just a few of the notable culprits reported. Once you purchase this fake report and they have your credit card account number, they disappear, leaving you out of pocket and at risk of identity theft with your credit card number compromised. In addition, if you provided your registration to confirm the VIN, the buyer may have acquired sensitive personal information as well.

Red Flags to Watch For

To protect yourself from falling victim to these scams, watch out for the following red flags:

  1. Unfamiliar Websites: Carfax is the primary resource for VIN reports in Canada. If a potential buyer insists on using other providers to purchase the vehicle history report and it’s on a specific website that you’ve never heard of, be wary. While a different company may be legit, as a seller it is best to stay vigilant.
  2. Website Functionality: One immediately suspicious element of these scam websites is the functionality of that specific site. For example, many have spelling errors, broken links, and buttons that do not work.
  3. Suspicious Text Messages: Many of the scams reported broken English, poor grammar, or information that did not apply to their locale. For example, many of the text messages come from area codes far beyond where you would expect as a seller.
  4. Pushy Behavior: Scammers often use high-pressure tactics to get you to act quickly without thinking. If someone is being overly insistent about using a particular site, that’s a huge red flag.
  5. Too Good to Be True: If the website they recommend offers to sell you vehicle history reports at a significantly lower price than reputable sites, be skeptical. It’s likely a scam designed to get your credit card information through what appears to be a “good deal”.
  6. Request for Personal Information: Legitimate buyers don’t need your personal information beyond what’s necessary for the sale, especially prior to viewing. If they ask for more than that, it’s time to back away. Some of these scams have been reported as lead generators who sell your personal data to new and used car dealerships for advertising and marketing purposes.

Selling a car or motorcycle online should be a smooth and enjoyable process. By being aware of these scams and knowing how to spot them, you can protect yourself as a seller to ensure a safe transaction. Your best bet is to stay informed and cautious, ensuring you don’t lose money or compromise your personal information when you sell your motorcycle online.

A person negotiating intensely with a private seller for a motorcycle in a residential garage, with the motorcycle prominently displayed in the background.


Risks Involved in the Vehicle History Report Scam

Financial and Identity Theft

When you provide your personal and credit card information to a scammer, you're essentially handing over the keys to your financial and personal security. Scammers can use your credit card account number for unauthorized purchases, leaving you with unexpected charges and a lot of hassle to reverse them. Worse, they might use your personal information to commit identity fraud, which can take years to fully resolve. Your car's vehicle identification number might seem harmless alone, but combined with other personal details, it can lead to serious issues. It's like giving a thief a roadmap to your bank account and personal records.

Impact on the Selling Process

Dealing with fraudulent buyers is a massive time drain. Instead of finalizing a sale, you're stuck sifting through messages from scammers, each one a potential waste of time. This isn't just frustrating—it can also cause you to miss out on genuine offers from real buyers.

Emotionally, the process can be exhausting. Each message from a "potential buyer" raises your hopes, only to dash them when you realize it's another scam. The constant vigilance required to spot scams can also take a toll on your peace of mind.

Additionally, if scammers get hold of your personal information, they could use it maliciously, potentially damaging your reputation. Imagine a scammer using your identity to conduct shady deals. It's not just about the immediate financial impact; the long-term consequences can be devastating.

A masked and gloved thief sneaking away in a dark alley, holding an oversized credit card almost as big as the thief.


Avoiding Fake Vehicle History Reports

Verifying Legitimate Requests

To avoid falling prey to these scams, it's crucial to differentiate between legitimate buyers and scammers. Genuine buyers will typically accept vehicle history reports from reputable sources like Carfax. They won't insist on using a specific, unknown website for the report.

When providing your motorcycle's VIN, do so in a way that protects your information. Purchase and share the Carfax report directly rather than giving out your VIN freely. If a buyer insists on needing the VIN before seeing the bike, provide only the number, not your insurance or registration card. Meet them in person and let them inspect the motorcycle to qualify their interest.

Steps to Take if You Encounter a Scam

If you're a seller that suspects a scam, take immediate action. Stop all communication with the potential buyer and do not provide any more information. Report the scam to the platform where the listing is posted—whether it's Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, or Autotrader. Most platforms have a reporting system for scams and fraudulent activity.

Additionally, report the VIN report scam to your local authorities. This helps in tracking and potentially stopping these scammers. It’s also a good idea to warn others by sharing your experience on forums or social media.

Using Trusted Sources

Always use trusted sources for obtaining vehicle history reports. Carfax is the most reliable option in Canada. By using these, you ensure the report is legitimate and comprehensive, covering all necessary details like accident and repair history, title status, and more.

Conducting your own report and sharing it with potential buyers shows transparency and builds trust. It also prevents scammers from tricking you into using fraudulent websites. Sharing a reputable vehicle history report upfront can streamline the selling process, making it easier and safer for both parties.

Consider Consignment

If dealing with scammers isn't your cup of tea, you may consider consigning with a local used car or motorcycle dealership. There are reputable options out there offering motorcycle consignment to sell on your behalf. These dealers typically have several cars and motorcycles on site as well as financing options which help to lure in potential buyers. Most consignment programs will take all of the weight off of your shoulders and pay you via cheques or wire transfers once the bike sells.

 A friendly and enthusiastic salesman standing outside a motorcycle dealership, giving a thumbs up, with a row of motorcycles on display.


Selling a motorcycle online can be a smooth and successful process if you stay vigilant and informed. Understanding the vehicle history report scam, recognizing the red flags, and using trusted sources are key to protecting yourself from fraud. Always verify the legitimacy of buyers and take immediate action if you suspect a scam. By following these guidelines, you can safely navigate the world of online motorcycle sales and avoid falling victim to scams. Stay alert, stay informed, and happy selling!

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