How To Avoid Scammers When Shopping For An RV

How To Avoid Scammers When Shopping For An RV

Writing this post made me flustered. The feather kind of flustered.

Fiona cat

I think running into scammers is most disappointing when you get excited about a rig; believing it could be THE ONE. Then, like that mean kid in 3rd grade, they attempt to pull the chair right from under you.

Scammers are the mean kids of our school years. And they are everywhere.

Don’t believe me?

Last week, I thought I’d found it… yep, THE ONE. She was beautiful. Older, but beautiful. She had the big kitchen I want and the east to west bedroom that we are looking for, among other things. The guy who was the contact for the RV gave me the email for his aunt who he was selling the rig for. “What a sweet nephew” I thought. They had me from the beginning.

The email conversation that transpired was fairly normal. She was quick to answer. She was in the Air Force. The reason she was selling, and selling the rig so low at that, was because she had been reassigned to Alaska where she no longer needed her RV. Since Jeremy was in the Air Force, I thought it was a match made…

It wasn’t until she said she’d ship it to us and we could wire her money that I found my head cocked sideways. “Hm” was about all I could muster before I took the courage and gave it the good Google go.

And what did I find? Chaos.

The first page of articles were strictly about scams other people had been through that fit the bill. I typed in the name of the base she gave me and followed it to an article where, I swear, my email exchange was written out in black in white pretty much verbatim.

My heart sank.

I was slightly devastated. It sounds silly, but that’s exactly where they want you: vulnerable. Excited and vulnerable, and it made me sick.

Again, this would not have been such a big deal had we not been looking for our future home. But we were and still are. It just sucks and it is hard to not feel like a sucker. I felt a little better when I notified Craigslist. I felt another weight off my shoulders when, that same day, and then another secondary instance this week, I found THE SAME ad on RVTrader. Same pics, same specs… I couldn’t believe it. Now that is just plain dumb, right?

Well, I emailed RVTrader and they said that kind of thing happens all the time and thanks for the note. Now I understand that more than ever.

Since last week, I have been in critical mode. I analyze the prices, my conversations with the sellers, even the minute details in regard to the condition of the RVs.

I have since run into several more instances of the same kind of scam and it makes me wonder how they get away with it, being so prolific. I mean, seriously?

Anyway, enough of my recent misfortune. Here’s a small list I made to help you avoid scammers and the same situations I have found myself in.

1. If the price is too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.

We’ve heard this saying time and time again, but think about it: when something is worth less than what someone is charging, they should charge less. Well, if something is obviously worth more than the asking price, they should charge more. My scammer told me she was transferring, which is a perfectly reasonable excuse to sell a rig for a cheaper price. But, when I checked NADA, that RV could easily have sold for around $30,000. Way off. Way suspicious.

Unless you know the seller personally or a friend is giving you a sick deal because they love you and they can, be weary and keep an eye on the price.

2. Ask questions and get good at understanding seller responses.

Part of the reason I almost fell for the first scam is because, I would later understand, I felt comfortable with the seller.

The days of old scamming techniques are over.

These people have an idea of how buyers think and how they feel about their purchases. We want to feel good and they know that. So, I got sucked in because I felt good. It was our first “real lead” and I had already imagined how I would redo the walls. I was excited and I realized that is what they feed off of.

However, in the first couple emails I sent her, I specifically asked questions regarding any past damage, where she got the rig, etc. These emails were answered with the same emails as before. I thought maybe she was not a native English speaker. Obviously, that was not the problem.

I should have known from the first couple emails that this person was a sham. Someone selling a rig will be open about the life of the RV. Period.

3. Talk on the phone with the seller.

This should be a major red flag, especially when a phone number is listed. So, after I exchanged more emails with the seller, I asked if we could talk on the phone and iron out specifics. She said her job would not allow her to. This wasn’t so weird to me because Jeremy told me you can’t use your phone during work hours in the military, but I know that shouldn’t matter once she is off work.

Bad vibeville.

Then, I called the number listed (Mr. Nephew) and he did not answer nor call me back.

My guess? It was a Google number they bought. I’m assuming they weren’t even in Texas, despite the 512 Austin area code. They may not even be in the US, either. My mind was on fire.

4. Know the rig you want to buy.

Price points can seem alarming when you don’t know what you want. When you have a better understanding of the rig and features you want on/in the rig, prices make more sense and you’re less likely to get caught in the midst of a scam storm.

NADA has a detailed search engine used to look up prices for specific RVs based on year, mileage, number of slideouts, appliances, engine type, etc. That way, when you come across an RV you like, you have a clearer idea of how to proceed with the rig when it comes to price.

5. Have realistic expectations.

It’s good to be excited. Come on, looking for an RV is so fun! But when buying a rig, it is smarter to think of it as a business deal. After all, it is a transaction of money and goods, not sugar and spice. All of the points above should help you have realistic expectations about the RVs you come across and even consider buying.

When THE ONE presents itself, these points will help you know whether it is the real deal or NO DEAL.

6. Don’t fall for the act.

I have seen more of these since my first big scam encounter. First, they form family ties with someone who is selling the RV or make you think they are selling it for a dead spouse, which I found a little cruel. But remember, they are out for the profit only. They want your money and they know they have to get you on a human level to convince you the sell is real.

Me: Why are you selling your RV?

Seller: My husband was the one who used it. He passed away and I don’t need it anymore

Me: Why are you selling your RV? 

Seller: I am being transferred to Alaska from Nebraska and don’t want to waste my time haggling the price. I know it is being sold under market value. 

It seems fairly innocent until you realize they want you to believe they have a really good excuse that makes an immediate sale their only option. If this has already happened to you, don’t feel stupid. That was me last week.

Getting tips from someone’s personal experience can provide you with a leg up on those who wish you’d just pay up.

I think it is also important to note that these points apply to more than RVs. Whenever you make a big purchase, know the details, know the seller.

Whatever site you find a potential scammer on, there is a way to either block the scammer or report them to the company.

Have you ever run into a scamming situation? Have you had to learn how to avoid scammers when shopping for an RV, or any other item?

  • GREAT article! I could feel your excitement. It’s so true though. They prey on it! I hope you guys find your rig soon!

    • Mel

      Thanks so much, Liz! We’re hopeful that when the right rig comes along we’ll know. Always grateful for the support!