Internet Offers Many Ways for Vehicle Buyers to Get Burned
Wallingford, CT – May 20, 2013 – Connecticut Better Business Bureau is urging consumers who are considering buying a vehicle online to be extremely cautious, as phony auto dealership websites are springing up on the Internet.
Recent cases involve consumers unwittingly buying through bogus auto dealer websites. In addition, some of the con artists are using the names and contact information of legitimate car dealers to lend credence to their schemes.
According to BBB and law enforcement agencies, the prevalence of online auto sales fraud is growing.
“While there are legitimate dealerships online,” according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti, “unfortunately, buyers and sellers alike are being cheated by unscrupulous operators, and consumers should use due diligence when buying a vehicle over the Internet.”
In three recent frauds investigated by BBB, buyers were lured by authentic-looking websites that featured high end luxury cars such as Ferraris and Bentleys, often priced thousands of dollars below the typical book value.
The investigations revealed scammers were listing cars and using photographs and descriptions of vehicles for sale that belonged to legitimate dealerships.
Other problems with fraudulent online vehicle transactions involve the sale of cars that were stolen, mechanically unsound or had hidden damage.
In light of the proliferation of phony online dealer websites, Connecticut BBB offers the following tips:
Research the seller as much as you would the make and model – Start by checking out the dealer at bbb.org, and verify whether it is licensed. If a website appears to belong to an auto dealership, contact the company directly to verify whether it is selling the vehicle you’re interested in.
If it sounds too good to be true it probably is – Some scammers use hard luck stories to justify an unusually low asking price, such as financial hardship.
In each of the three cases investigated, cars were advertised at prices substantially below market value. Use resources such as Kelley Blue Book to get a sense of how much you might realistically expect to pay for a given model and year.
Meet the seller and inspect the car – Con artists prefer to use chat or email, and balk at meeting face to face. BBB urges consumers not to send money for an online vehicle purchase without having an opportunity to see the vehicle first or have it inspected by a third party of your choosing. If a purported dealer attempts to rush you into sending money to 'hold' a car or hesitates when you ask if you can see or inspect the vehicle, move on. Never send a deposit or payment by wire transfer.
Do some online detective work – If the listing provides the Vehicle Identification Number, (VIN) do an online search to see if that same car appears elsewhere on the web. If a vehicle with the same VIN is listed in another dealership’s inventory, it is a sign something is amiss.