More and more people are shopping for and purchasing pre-owned vehicles over the internet. They find it an easier and more convenient way to do used car research and find the vehicles of their dreams. It’s also great for those who prefer to go it alone or at their own pace. For them, it avoids the pressure associated with in-person browsing.
The trend toward virtual vehicle shopping has only accelerated since the coronavirus pandemic became a dominant force in everybody’s lives. More and more dealerships have moved all or part of the buying experience online. The reason: Many people prefer limited-contact or contact-free car shopping today.
This is a great way for dealers to respond to current customer needs and expectations. However, the rapid shift into the virtual realm could leave buyers vulnerable. It is possible that online privacy and security precautions were missed in the rush for dealers to move their operations online.
Here’s how to keep your information safe as you shop for pre-owned vehicles in the digital marketplace.
Prevent nuisance marketing.
When you provide your email address and other contact information while shopping online, you could be unintentionally giving permission for the site you’re on, and potentially other businesses, to market to you.
Some of the sales content you receive may help you find the right car. It could also lead to a lot of unwanted phone calls, texts, emails and other spam. What’s worse, depending on the information you’re asked to share, you could be putting your privacy and security at risk.
Think twice before providing any personal information. Figure out what the dealership really needs to know about you to do business with them, especially early in the shopping process. If it seems too intrusive, it probably is. Also, make sure you read the fine print before you submit anything. Find out how it could be used and shared. If you’re not comfortable, move on or pick up the phone and ask a “real person” to send you what you need.
Check security protocols.
When you’re shopping for a car from the comfort of your living room, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of complacency. If you shop for a car at a dealership, you’re aware of when you hand over things like your driver’s license, what’s done with it and when its returned to you. You think twice before sharing your social security number and other critical information with a stranger. You take steps to protect against others seeing your PIN numbers and other private security data.
People may not be as conscious when they shop virtually, but should be. Review the dealer’s website security policy before you provide any information online. When things don’t seem right, contact the dealership to find out for sure. If you don’t feel everything is one hundred percent secure, move on. Do business with a dealer that makes digital security a TOP priority.
Find out who you’re REALLY sharing information with.
Buying a used car online could involve providing personal data to more businesses than just the dealer. It could include banks, finance companies, lawyers and more. Before submitting any information, make sure you have a clear understanding of who is receiving it. When you apply for a loan through a dealer, check that it’s with a reputable finance company and not a fly-by-night operation. If you supply payment information to a financial firm, make sure it’s licensed and that it has protections in place so your personal information can’t be stolen or misused. If you submit paperwork to a lawyer or other legal entity, do some research to ensure they’re legit.
Buying a used vehicle online can be a smart move, especially during a pandemic. However, during dynamic times like these, you never know when security protocols could have been missed that might put you at risk. The vast majority of used car dealers are responsible and above board. They do everything possible to look out for your well being. Still, you owe it to yourself to do your due diligence to make sure you protect your personal information and financial security.