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Action Line: Be wary of eBay offer from out of the blue

A reader: My wife and I are looking to buy a gently used mini van. We have four children and want to make sure that we are getting a safe vehicle and not overpaying. I have an eBay account and have been shopping online there.

Yesterday, I received an email with an invoice attached to it for $2,500 for a 2009 Toyota Sienna. The invoice said it was DMV inspected, that they could deliver within three days and it included free shipping from Great Falls, Montana.

I’m suspicious because they want me to take cash to a local store and load five “OneVanilla Prepaid VISA/Mastercards” with $500 each. Then, they want us to email the card number, expiration date and three-digit security codes, along with my name address and phone number. How do I know that I am not being scammed?

Action Line: The first thing I did was go to Kelley Blue Book. They valued a 2009 Toyota in fair condition with 70,000 miles at $8,506. Why are they only asking for $2,500 and free shipping?

Secondly, they are asking for five prepaid cards of $500 each. If you provide the card information to them, they will be able to use those cards and you could be out $2,500.

Also, the invoice does not provide a vehicle identification number. Without that, you will not know if there are any outstanding registration and taxes owed in Montana. If any fees are outstanding, you would have to pay them.

What is the condition of the vehicle? How many miles does it have on the odometer? Has it ever been salvaged? Are there any outstanding liens?

Ask for a Carfax report. Millions of items are for sale online each day. No matter what you are buying online, from private party to private party on any site, it is a good idea to see if the seller has a refund/return policy. You should also review what the online company has in place to protect the buyers and sellers.

eBay advises that if you are suspicious about an email that claims to be from eBay, you can find out whether it’s really from eBay by following these steps:

1. Log in to your eBay account.

2. Go to your Messages.

3. Look for the email in your messages. If you don’t see it, the email is fake.

4. To report a fake email to eBay, forward it to

Watch for these warning signs that an email might be fake:

▪ It asks you to enter sensitive, personal information such as a username, password or bank account number. eBay will never ask you for this information in an email.

▪ It claims that eBay is updating its files or accounts.

▪ It says that your account is in jeopardy and you won’t be able to buy or sell on eBay if you don’t.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or