Buyers need to stay on alert; scammers are always coming up with tricky new ways to part you and your money. You can’t be too careful these days and when something looks “too good to be true” it often is.
BBB Warns Consumers About Internet Vehicle Scams
The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about scams robbing people of their hard-earned dollars as they wait for cars that never arrive.
Using fake websites and a non-existent escrow company, scammers have lured dozens of victims by offering cars at hugely discounted prices.
The BBB started getting complaints last month from people who had been taken for a ride with this new scam. This particular scam involves a few different fake companies including HQS Auto Shipping, Silver Shipping, Springfield Shippers using illegitimate websites that have already been taken down:
A New Scam Involving Fake Websites Like Springfield Shippers
It works like this. Someone posing as a recently divorced or widowed woman with a fake names claims to need to get rid of a car quickly, thus the discounted price. They use a variety of reasons for needing money for kids college, to wanting to get rid of old memories of their husbands.
The scammer then insists on using their escrow service that will pay for shipping and ensure both parties satisfaction. They even send the potential buyer pictures of a pristine automobile. They request a 50% deposit with assurances that if they don’t like the car, they will pay for them to return it, no questions asked. As part of the scam details, they also mention moving with their daughter and going to live with parents in Kansas City, Missouri.
The BBB claims that two things stand out for this scam. Shipping a vehicle across the country costs hundreds of dollars, and no one would agree to pay for that expense on top of a discounted deal. The second red flag is that the seller insists on using their escrow service claiming they had good luck in the past, or someone they know used it. When buying from an unknown seller, you should always choose your own escrow service.
As soon as these fake escrow companies get your money, you never hear from them again. In fact, often the websites disappear within days, and you cannot contact anyone via phone or email.
Car Buying Scams and How to Avoid Them
Tragedies like these happen all the time, and people can lose thousands of dollars instantly. But there are things you can do to safeguard yourself against vehicle sale scams.
- If the deal sounds too good to be true, pass on it. The chances of you finding a rare vehicle discounted well below what it is worth from a valid seller is minimal.
- Make sure you contact the seller by phone and speak to them at length to get a perspective on who you are dealing with and if they are lying.
- Verify the legitimacy of the escrow company. Speak to a representative, do not just rely on website information. It could all be faked.
- The first thing you want to do is ask a ton of detailed questions. Often if you ask too many, the scammer will break off contact and disappear, saving you from being a victim. Look for any holes in their answers and their story.
- Ask the seller for the VIN and check vehicle history reports to make sure you are buying a legitimate vehicle. A comprehensive vehicle history report will show you all past ownership of the car, liens, maintenance, accident history, flood or fire damage, if the car’s title is clean or not and airbag deployments. Check carefully for details about accidents and other factors that the vehicle is sound and what the seller claims it is.
- Don’t ever give out personal information such as bank account, credit card or social security numbers to anyone until you know you are dealing with a real company.
If you believe you are being scammed, contact the BBB immediately with all the details and file a complaint. Help keep others from losing money to these criminals.