A man loses $82,000 selling a fake car; BBB warns of other scams

Indianapolis (WXIN) – Used car prices are over the top, and thieves are taking advantage of consumers’ desire to buy cars. A man lost $82,000 after falling victim to a fraudulent transaction.

The BBB said a California man thought he was buying a car from a dealer in Indiana. He learned that the car and dealership weren’t there, but not until after the $82,000 loss.

“Scammers are really good at figuring out what’s going on in the world and adapting to that to try to lure people in,” said Jennifer Adamani, director of communications for the Better Business Bureau that serves central Indiana. “So the fact that it’s hard to get a car now and the price is so high, they see there’s a target market for them to try and offer people a very good deal.”

Adamany advises buyers to choose to see the vehicle in person before buying, if possible.

“If you can, try not to buy a car without seeing it first and taking a test drive,” Adamani said. “If you’re able to call the salesperson or the manager on the phone or see them in person because if they avoid talking to you or they can’t confirm their location or where the car actually is, those are red flags.”

The BBB said that some of the common tricks scammers are currently playing is listing a car online through an advertisement on social media. After they start communicating with the customer, the person placing the ad will tell them that a loved one has died and they want to get rid of the car because it brings back bad memories, or another deal faltered and the car is ready to be shipped.

“If they were trying to request a payment through bank transfer, even nowadays cryptocurrency, gift cards, that would be a red flag because it’s really hard to get your money back through these types of purchases,” Adamany said.

In each case, the BBB said the fraudster assures the payer that the transaction will take place through a third-party buyer protection program.

“Often they will try to ensure it is protected, but just keep in mind that transactions on places like eBay, PayPal and Craig List, they caution that they can’t necessarily guarantee that people using their services are legitimate,” Adamany said.

Once people pay, the BBB said, the bad actor usually stops responding to calls, texts and emails.

The BBB has sent out these tips to protect consumers from fraudulent online car sales:

  • Never transfer money or complete bank-to-bank transactions. Scammers love this type of transaction because there is no way to get your money back once it is completed. Instead, make legitimate purchases with a check or credit card
  • Watch out for deals too good to be true. They are most likely a scam. Fraudsters often steal consumers’ personal information and money by offering them high-value items at deeply discounted prices.
  • Reach out to the seller by phone At some point during the negotiations, speak with the sales manager over the phone. If it is unusually vague about certain details of the sale or cannot confirm its location or the location of the vehicle, it is most likely a scam
  • Look at the car first. Never buy a car without a personal check-up and a test drive first
  • Don’t give in to pressure. Scammers often try to pressure you to give up your personal information or make a down payment before you have time to consider a purchase. Take your time and think of a deal before agreeing to anything. If you have a bad feeling, listen to your intuition
  • Don’t trust a seller or buyer who says the transaction is guaranteed by eBay, PayPal, Craigslist, or any other online marketplace. These sites expressly state that they cannot guarantee the legality of people using their services

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