Scams to watch out for when buying or selling an RV

Scams to Watch Out for When Buying or Selling an RV

Updated on February 17th, 2024

RV ownership is at all-time highs, and many people like to take advantage of the situation by scamming buyers and sellers.

To combat RV scams, I put together this guide to explain what signs to look for during the buying or selling process that indicate when something isn’t quite right.

Don’t be taken by RV scammers, who love to prey on newbies to the lifestyle. Instead, learn from other’s mistakes and keep your hard-earned money in your wallet where it belongs!

How to Avoid Being Scammed When Buying or Selling an RV

RV scams for buyers and sellers are on the rise, especially when trying to make a deal online through RV broker websites, Craigslist, Facebook, or other local marketplaces.

The best method to protect yourself against monetary damage is to educate yourself about the latest RV scam tactics people use in the list below.

Never Give Out Too Much Personal Information

RV owners

Not all scams when purchasing or selling an RV happen online, but its anonymity provides cover for those looking to part with your money.

What you post or say to potential “buyers” can quickly backfire as they use that information against you or sell it to make a quick buck.

Most people don’t think about the wording they use when posting for sale ads, but scammers search RV listings for clues you’re in a desperate situation and need to get rid of the camper as soon as possible.

Avoid using words such as:

  • Must sell
  • Moving
  • Widow
  • Selling for an ill parent
  • Health issues
  • All offers considered
  • Reduced price

When scam artists spot these words, they will jump on the ad, contacting you and pressing you to give out even more personal information. Eventually, it leads to you parting with your bank account routing information so they can “transfer” you the funds or a deposit for the RV.

Once the scammer gets the information they need to access your bank account, they will move fast to withdraw as much money as they can before you or the bank catches it. Remember that most of these scam artists or groups are offshore, leaving you with no legal recourse to recoup lost funds once they leave your account.

Scammers use several ruses to get this information. For example, they may say they want to send payment via wire transfer to your account for the RV.

Other scammers will state they need your date of birth and bank information to vet you as a reputable seller or that they want to finish the sale quickly because they need the RV for an upcoming trip and need the information to mail you a certified check.

Another scam is replying to online ads from people who state they are looking to buy used RVs.

In the ad, there will be a link to the company website. Once you fill out the contact form, you’ve given them what they really want: another person’s data they can sell in batches to other companies looking for leads.

How to Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams

A man sitting in front of the laptop inside a camper

Be suspicious of any private RV sales negotiations that only occur online or by phone. In general, keep your RV ad posts straightforward with price, features, and basic contact information only.

Never give buyers a story about why you are selling other than it doesn’t fit your lifestyle, and never indicate you are in a rush to unload the RV.

I know it’s hard not to have friendly chats or show excitement to a potential buyer, but this is where scammers gather their data on you.

During any sales talk, remember the buyer may be phishing for your personal data to hack into your bank account or sell off your information to other nefarious groups.

If you’re interested in having a company help sell your RV, use a website domain checker to help verify if it’s a legitimate site before entering your contact and RV info.

Accepting a Check for an RV Purchase

The check scam is still prevalent for RV purchases. Sellers continue to fall for this shady transaction because they want to unload their camper quickly or can’t find a buyer after several months.

The scam works like this:

A “serious buyer” calls or emails about your RV sales ad and wants to complete the sale sight unseen because they “trust” your ad is legitimate. The details about your recreational vehicle are “just what they are looking for” for themselves or a person they are brokering the deal for.

Once you accept the offer, they insist on sending you a personal or cashier’s check to complete payment. The buyer will tell you they are arranging to have the RV picked up from your location, as they can’t do it personally.

This scam can now go one of two ways.

First, the scammer sends a check (often overnight or express mail) that you realize is more than the agreed-upon price. Then, when you call about it, the buyer is apologetic for “making a mistake” and asks you to go ahead and deposit the check into your bank and wire them the difference.

The second scam has the buyer telling the seller upfront that they will be sending a check for $500 or more than the final price. Then, the buyer needs to forward this “extra money” to a shipper or RV inspector, and they give you the wire transfer information to complete the deal.

This check scam relies on the RV seller to quickly deposit the payment into their bank account and immediately wire the extra funds back to the buyer or other person.

The catch is that the check is fake, which can be very hard to spot for both a personal or cashier’s check since modern technology and printers make it simple.

WARNING: Just because your bank accepts the check for deposit doesn’t mean it’s legitimate.

It takes a bank up to ten days to clear checks, at which time you’ve already wired the money and are stuck with the loss once the payment bounces.

A double whammy can be if you wire off the “extra” money and allow someone to pick up your RV before you realize it was a scam.

Luckily, most of these scammers only want to fool you into sending them money and never have any interest in putting their hands on your RV.

Be very aware that this scam isn’t always through phone or internet conversations. Some scam teams have friendly “buyers” show up in person with fake identification to make the seller feel more comfortable about the transaction.

How to Protect Yourself from RV Sale Check Scams

A salesperson keeping keys for RV motorhomes

You don’t have to insist that a buyer pays you in cash for your RV, but you need to use caution when accepting a check for payment from a stranger.

The best course of action is to allow the check to clear before delivering the RV or sending off any “overpayments.” If the buyer balks at the wait time, walk away from the deal, as it’s probably shady.

Buyers Sending a Big Deposit to Hold an RV

Finding the perfect RV for your needs and budget is rarely simple, so when you spot an ad that has your ideal camper for sale, it’s easy to forget common-sense rules to protect yourself from scammers.

The top RV scam website is Craigslist, but Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, eBay, and many other peer-to-peer buy/sell/trade apps or websites need caution when searching for RVs.

The scam begins with the “seller” posting an ad about the RV, along with a low price. In most instances, this person doesn’t own the RV and copied the pictures and details from other ads posted online.

When you contact the seller, they inform you that if you’re interested and think you want the RV, you must provide a hefty deposit so they can hold it, as they will be turning down other offers until you make a decision.

A small deposit on a potential RV sale isn’t necessarily an issue, as this is common practice for private sales, but an overly large figure should trigger alarm bells.

The scam works by you sending an overnight check to the seller.

They cash your check and then take your routing information to begin stealing money from your account, hoping they can keep you away until the check clears and they can remove as much money from your bank account as possible.

Modern banks often don’t allow customers to immediately cash checks from non-bank customers, which helps curtail this scam somewhat. But, unfortunately, once scammers have your routing information, these computer experts will hack into your account and leave you stuck with the consequences.

How to Protect Yourself From RV Deposit Scams

The best way to avoid RV deposit scams is to shop in person when possible and always verify the seller’s information and that there’s an actual RV for sale.

A deposit to hold an RV should be $100-$300, even if the recreational vehicle is pretty expensive. Of course, the longer you ask the seller to hold the RV, the more the deposit should be.

You can bring along or ask the seller to provide a deposit contract (with clauses on how long the seller will hold the RV and what will happen to the deposit if the buyer backs out) to make the transaction safer for both parties.

Listing Your RV on a Fake RV Brokerage or Dealer Website

An RV marketplace

With current new and used RV sales rising rapidly, supply and demand have scammers setting up fake websites that claim they are RV dealers or brokers.

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The scam is that the company will list, promote, and sell your RV for a fee (often in the $200-$500 range), saving you the hassle of a private sale.

The company will take your fee and then quickly vanish from the web while also taking your information and selling it to other scammers who will target you as a “sucker.” These fake RV-selling websites will start again with a new name and website to scam more people.

Again, use a website verification tool and do your research to check if the company is legit before you list your RV with them because creating an authentic-looking website is easy.

Buying a Phantom RV

Scammers love to post ads of RVs for sale that don’t exist, hoping to fool a buyer into paying for the unit before seeing it in person.

The scam starts with RV pictures taken from other ads off the internet. Next, the scammer posts details about the camper, but they tend to be vague and encourage interested parties to contact them for more information.

Of course, the selling price is nearly too good to be true.

Depending on the skill of the scammer, you may only see one or two exterior-only shots of the RV, which helps send up red flags that the ad may be fake. However, some scammers find advertisements that offer a full range of interior and exterior RV pictures that may fool you into thinking the listing is legitimate.

Once you contact the scam seller, they’ll push for full payment before they allow you to pick up or have the RV delivered.

I hate to say that it’s not uncommon for a person to buy such an RV and travel quite a distance to pick up the camper, only to find nothing there.

How to Protect Against Phantom RV Sellers

An RV seller

Before purchase, any seller who won’t let you inspect a motorhome, travel trailer, fifth wheel, pop-up, or other campers should be suspect. Sellers that insist upon full payment before delivering an RV you haven’t seen in person are another red flag.

The best way to protect against these scam sellers is to ask lots of questions and get the VIN (vehicle identification number), so you can check for theft reports or that it’s attached to an RV already sold and owned by another person. Good sites to verify a VIN are Faxvin or Carfax.

Insist on seeing the title and the identification of the seller/owner to ensure they match. Also, ask for maintenance records and receipts for any repairs or replacement of appliances.

Have the seller do a live video walkthrough of the RV with you to verify the unit actually exists. Don’t rely on a pre-recorded video as proof.

If the seller rebuffs any of your requests, it’s most likely a scam, and it’s time to keep looking for your dream RV elsewhere.

More Tips to Prevent RV Buying and Selling Scams

1. Whenever you buy a used RV, it’s a good idea to have the unit inspected by a certified RV technician or inspector to ensure the unit is in good working order. Scammers will avoid letting you or another person inspect an RV they have for sale.

2. Never pay for an RV using a wire transfer, as scammers will quickly pull the money from the bank and move it to a new account you cannot trace. Instead, try to pay using a credit card or other traceable means that lets you dispute the transaction if it turns out to be a scam.

3. Check the website of RV brokers or transporting companies for the Motor Carrier (MC) docket number to help prove authenticity through the Department of Transportation (DOT) SAFER website.

4. Always make the transfer of the RV title and final payment at the DMV together with the buyer or seller. A scammer will never agree to such terms.

Final Thoughts

Amongst all the legitimate RV buying and selling ads and websites, there will ultimately be scammers hiding, hoping to profit from trusting people who aren’t aware of the latest scams.

Often, RV sellers or buyers are older and not as computer savvy, so they overlook the red flags of a transaction and get duped out of money, an RV, or both.

I hope this article heightens your awareness of RV scams so you can protect yourself and your wallet and not become a statistic!

Find more information in our posts about how to avoid common RV campground and RV repair scams.

The Latest RV Dealer Scam (Video)

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