JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Selling your car online can save you a lot of money, but the reality is, if you are not careful, you may find yourself on the losing end.

EBay Motors and Craigslist are more than a digital garage of used cars.

First Coast resident, Scott Lara listed his car on Craigslist.

"I didn't want to post something that would cost me money," he said. "It was free."

The posting was a month ago for a 1999 Park Avenue. 

"I was selling it to get some extra money," he said.

The asking price a mere $1,000 and the reaction was swift.

"The person said they would be sending me an overnight package with a check," he said. "Then I was to send them a text when I received it.  

The overnight envelope arrived as promised from an Adrian Lopez in Mobile, Alabama. Inside, it contained a check. 

But the address on the check was not from Alabama like he expected. Instead, it was a company in Milton, Delaware and not under the name Adrian Lopez.

"There was a red flag to me," he said.

He said another red flag was the amount on the check. He listed the car for $1,000 but the would-be buyer sent a check for $2,450.

"I called the company on the check and they said this is the third time that someone had called and it was a fraudulent check," Lara said.

The company then instructed him to not to cash the check, so he didn't.

How can you tell if an online car sale is fake?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has established some red flags. Among them:

  • The seller or buyer won't meet in person;
  •  It is a high-pressure transaction;
  • They want you to pay with gift cards or they pay with a phony check.

For Lara, he, fortunately, did not lose anything, but he learned a lesson.

"The message is to look before you leap," he said.

In other words, as the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true.

Ironically, this week the FTC launched an awareness effort entitled, "Put the Brakes on phony online car sales."