Buying and selling parts is the lifeblood of the Trackday and racing market. Whether we’re looking to upgrade, repair, or just
hoard amass giant piles of spares, we are always on the lookout for good deals. In-person swap meets were the king 20 years ago, Forums and Craigslist were all the rage about 10 years ago… Today, the lion-share of used car part sales has shifted to Facebook, with our little niche Trackday market served mostly by car or local club specific clubs.
For years, this went on pretty well. Small groups of like-minded friends, often with local connections, conversed, bought, and sold parts. Sure, there were bad transactions and the occasional scam, but it all worked. However, over the past few months, brazen scam accounts have exploded across what seems like every single page and group on Facebook.
These scammers are very good at what they do. They go to great lengths to gather photos and sometimes even research the product. The ads are convincing, and are posted in small groups where members often feel a true feeling of community.
Right now, there seems to be two major approaches:
- One where a scammer creates a dummy personal account and lists a bunch of parts (Most of the ones I’ve seen are specialty garage tools like scales and lifts or another selling safety gear).
- The second is where they impersonate an established business with a similar name, similar website, etc. Often taking a vast majority of their photos, including logos, directly from said business.
Again, many of these groups and parts are very niche specific. We don’t see someone selling a set of racing corner-weight scales and expect a scammer to be behind it.
For all of Facebook’s anti misinformation/hate/bullying systems and automatic warning/bans/etc these scammer accounts remain a giant blindspot. Despite these pages and people getting “Reported to Facebook” constantly, they STILL continue. Admins will kick them out of a group when they realize, but the scammers join 5 more. If you are like me, you are in dozens of online communities (Car specific groups, region specific race groups, general motorsports groups, specific club pages, etc) and I see them everywhere. Some of these groups have aware, active admins who either deny entry to these scammers, or ban them immediately. However, MANY groups have admins who either are unaware of the scams or don’t manage their pages at all.
Many of these sales are pretty big-ticket items…. selling something like a set of scales for $1,000 or a Differential for $500. They are often listed as very good deals, right on the edge of “too good to be true” but still convincing.
These scammers are VERY Good, but they’re not perfect. Keep your eyes out for red flags, stay cautious and you can minimize your chances of getting scammed.
- NEVER pay someone online that you don’t know with a non-protected payment form. Payment options like Venmo, Zelle, Apple pay and Bitcoin will not protect you if you get scammed. If someone requests to be paid only this way, run away. Offer to pay with PayPal Goods & Services and cover the buyer protection fee, they’ll still likely come up with an excuse.
- Beware shipping big and heavy items – Many large items are really annoying and/or expensive to ship. If something valued honestly around $1,200 is listed as $1,000 shipped anywhere across the giant United States, be suspicious. A legitimate seller listing an item at a very low price should have no problem selling locally and not covering several hundred dollars in shipping costs.
- Contact a business directly, using contact info found OFF Facebook– If you are buying from what looks like a legitimate business selling on Facebook, find their contact info from Google or their website and reach out directly. They may confirm that yes, they are selling said item on Facebook, or they may warn that there are scammer accounts impersonating them.
- ASK AROUND – If you see a smoking deal on a big-ticket item, send the link to a friend or two and see if they notice anything suspicious.
- Google Image Search – These scammers do not possess the actual items, They find their photos (And descriptions) from other people’s for-sale ads and repost as their own. Sometimes you can do a google reverse-image search for these photos (Where you give google a link and see if that image appears anywhere else on the internet)… If that image comes up for sale by someone under a different name, it’s almost certainly a scam. This does not work in all cases, but can be very helpful.
- Look at their account – When did this seller join Facebook? Unless you’re Gen-Z (which you aren’t, because you’d just be on Tiktok now anyway) you’ve had a facebook account for at least a few years. If a seller has an account created in the last few months, take that as a HUGE red flag. Just have handful of friends/connections? Another red flag.
- Don’t buy safety gear from sketchy sources in general – Despite all my (often boneheaded) strategies and techniques to save money, safety gear is one avenue where you should ONLY buy directly from legitimate vendors like OG Racing. If you find a smoking Facebook deal on safety gear, EVEN if it does indeed arrive at your house, there is a chance that the gear you bought is counterfeit. If you are buying any gear from outside of the standard retailers, make sure you are buying directly from a trusted friend or very positively referred mutual contact.
What can you do?
The biggest thing you can do to help fight these scammers is report ANY scam ads you see to group admins AND report the scam posts & accounts to facebook itself. Blocking them may protect you but then future posts will be invisible and you won’t be able to report them in the future or warn others. As of this writing Scam Pages like “Planet Miata – Auto” are still actively impersonating the real “Planet-Miata.com”. There are still shady accounts like “Colton Gilbert” posting scales and lifts. Sure, new attempts will likely fill their space if/when they get banned, but the quicker they can get removed the less money they’ll steal and hopefully less likely they are to return.
Where possible, Buy directly from established, legitimate businesses using their website (or retail store, if you’re close). Beware of new imitation accounts, I’ve seen other businesses impersonated as well.
For your Warning/Reading pleasure, here’s an interaction I had with “Planet – Miata Auto”. Note how they were VERY quick to offer “Free” shipping on a very expensive to ship part, quickly agreed that typically non-included parts are included and “in perfect condition”, asked for payment in a non-refundable way, and refused to allow me to pick up.
I have purchased parts from most major Miata Parts stores (maybe all of them at this point). I have made very large purchases directly from Marc at the real Planet Miata. At no point did any legitimate business ask me to pay “friends and family”.