Car sales scammers are taking advantage of the tax refund to deceive consumers. The FBI has issued a warning on fraudulent online car sales.
The scam works by enticing potential buyers with what seems like such a steal of a buy like offering a 2006 Acura for just $2,000 and a 2005 Acura TL for just over $1,000. FBI spokesperson Michelle Lee said that in spite of such tempting unbelievable good offers, in the end, buyers may end up with nothing if they fall for the scam.
One local journalist tried to make online searches of good offers and found a car on OfferUp but when she clicked the seller’s profile, she learned that the seller listed the same car more than 50 times in all different cities.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 26,967 complaints of such dubious online car sales. FBI says that amounts to more than $54 million dollars in adjusted losses.
The agency is warning people to be extra careful when buying cars online despite the seeming convenience and popularity of purchasing all things online. Lee said people should be alert for tell-tale signs of possible scams.
The FBI says scammers usually use divorce, deployment, and death as alibis for wanting to make quick sales and offering their cars at such bargain rates.
Lee also adds that buyers must be wary of sellers who request for money to be wired or prefer payment in gift cards. Lee said it is also equally crucial for buyers to investigate first whether the site where they’re buying from offers buyer protection. Sites offering free ads such as Craigslist or OfferUp do not offer buyer protection.
FBI has also provided a list of other tips:
• If it appears too good to be true, it probably is.
• Use the internet to research the advertised item and the seller’s name, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and other unique identifiers.
• Use the internet to research the company’s contact information and its shipping and payment policies before completing a transaction. Ensure the legitimacy of the contact information and that the company accepts the requested payment option.
• Avoid sellers who refuse to meet in person, or who refuse to allow the buyer to physically inspect the vehicle before the purchase.
• Ask for the vehicle’s VIN, license plate (if possible), and the name of the individual to whom the car is currently registered.
• Criminals take extra effort to disguise themselves and may have recognizable words in their e-mail name or domain. If you are suspicious or unsure about an e-mail that claims to be from a legitimate business, locate the business online and contact them directly.
The agency also encourages people to immediately report to them if they have been scammed.
Report the crime to the FBI's IC3 online.
People reporting scams should get ready with the following details when filing a complaint with the IC3:
• Victim's name, address, telephone, and email.
• Financial transaction information (e.g., account information, transaction date and amount, who received the money).
• Subject's name, address, telephone, email, website and IP address.
• Specific details on how you were victimized.
• Email header(s).
• Any other relevant information you believe is necessary to support your complaint.