March 1, 2021

Scams involving online vehicle sales surge amid pandemic



a screenshot of a car: Better Business Bureau issues a warning


© Better Business Bureau
Better Business Bureau issues a warning

The old saying rings true with one of the newest online scams: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The Better Business Bureau is warning about virtual vehicle vendor scams, which it says are soaring amid the pandemic.

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“Scammers are legitimately able to say that there are real reasons why you’re not able to physically come and inspect the vehicle,” said Jim Hegarty, with the Better Business Bureau.

An in-depth investigative study by the BBB revealed thousands of consumers have fallen victim to this type of scam.

Scammers are using websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to sell people vehicles that don’t exist. Victims are often directed to pay an independent third party, typically by wire transfer, to hold money in escrow. They’ll use the names of reputable companies and even take the names of legitimate local car dealerships, according to the study.

“In June, our BBB alerted consumers about three different car scam operations supposedly located in our BBB’s service area. One was not at either of two addresses listed on its website; a second used the name of a real local car dealer that does not sell cars online; and a third did not exist at the listed address and was not licensed to do business,” Hegarty said.

One of the biggest red flags is the price. If it’s too low, the sale is probably not legitimate. Another is grammar. If you see a lot of mistakes, end the sale. Experts also recommend doing your homework and call business an ad claims to be associated with. Don’t call the number given in the ad, look up the number on your own.

According to the BBB, the major investigations and prosecutions in New York, Kentucky and Europe have connected this fraud to Romanian nationals and others living in the U.S., Romania and elsewhere in Europe.

Read the full report here.

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