You may get phone calls and e-mails from people who are more interested in taking your money than buying your car.

It’s been many years since I sold a car privately but after a dealer offered what I considered to be a laughable price for my low-mileage Lexus, I decided to place an ad on autotrader.ca to see if I could do better. What an education that turned out to be!

It began less than 24 hours after the ad was posted. I received a telephone call from a charming lady who said her name was Tianna Lillies. She identified herself as a junior account executive with a Las Vegas-based company called Auto Marketing Group. They arrange financing for car buyers, she explained, and had located someone in my area who was interested in my Lexus. Assuming the vehicle passed inspection, they would guarantee me a price of $19,000 (more than $500 over what I was asking). All I had to do was send them $499 up front (in U.S. funds, of course) to retain their services. They would send me a certified cheque for the car as soon as the deal closed.

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Why not just deduct the $499 from the $19,000, I asked. “Oh, we don’t do business that way,” she replied. I said I had never heard of their company and told her to send me an e-mail with the details. She did.

The message made no mention of $19,000 but only promised to “scan for finance clients while your vehicle is in our registry”. It also said: “We advertise with the Military.com, Car and Driver, Walmart, AOL, and a list of about 60 affiliated websites.” There was a promise to refund $400 of the fee if the car did not sell within 12 weeks.

The next morning I received a follow-up call from a woman who identified herself as Tiffany, pressing for an answer. I again suggested they deduct the $499 from the price they obtained for the car and was again refused.

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