Bogus car ads can lead to real losses for consumers
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller warns consumers that an ultra-low price tag on a vehicle advertised online could be hiding a scam.
Zoeller said his office has received complaints from Hoosiers who have wired payments for cars listed online to later realize the vehicles were never shipped and the sellers can’t be reached.
Just like rental property scams, criminals can hijack legitimate car listings, change the contact information and then list the modified ads on another site; or they make up listings for vehicles that aren’t for sale or don’t exist.
The fraudulent seller often has long stories about why they aren’t available to show the car, why they can only be reached via email or why the car is priced below market value. Scammers may tell victims that they are going through a divorce and that’s why the price is low or claim they have been transferred overseas and can’t afford to have the car shipped to their new location.
Buyers are also told to send payment through a wire transfer service. Unfortunately, after victims send the money the cars never arrive and the scammers are long gone.
The Attorney General’s Office offers several tips to help consumers protect themselves from fraudulent car advertisements:
Scammers use a sense of urgency to force buyers to do things they wouldn’t normally do – such as disregard red flags and make a purchase without seeing the item in person;
Don’t use money transfer companies as an escrow service. Choose and contact a reputable escrow service yourself by verifying their legitimacy. Scammers will try to make you believe they are using an escrow service, when they have actually set up fake accounts using real company names;
Do not use money transfer services to purchase a vehicle online. They are not intended to be used for payment when doing business with a stranger you have not personally met; and
Be a cautious buyer and be prepared to walk away. Make sure you have the car checked out by a reputable company or someone you know and trust before purchasing it. If the seller does not allow this or tells you that he will only accept a money transfer before allowing you to see the car, walk away.
Also, be cautious if you advertise your car for sale online. Some scammers will produce fraudulent checks, cashier’s checks or money orders hoping the seller will release the car before realizing the check bounced. Be wary if a buyer pays with a check and then “realizes” they paid too much. The scammer may ask for you to wire the overages back while they have someone pick-up the vehicle. Unfortunately, the seller doesn’t realize the check was a fake before their car and money have been stolen.