BBB Alert: San Antonio Box Trucks takes money for nonexistent vehicles

  
     
November 13, 2013
San Antonio Box Trucks offers vehicles for sale on its website, saboxtrucks.com, but according to consumers who contacted Better Business Bureau, the company takes upfront payments and the consumer never gets to see the vehicle in person.

BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin has been unable to verify that the vehicles listed on saboxtrucks.com are actually available for purchase from San Antonio Box Trucks. In fact, consumers who tried to find the dealership reported that 4919 E. Houston Street in San Antonio — the address listed on the company’s website — actually goes to a service yard operated by CPS Energy.

BBB has found similar operations in the past. Typically, the company operates online, sets up a false address on a website and targets victims who don’t know the area. The company then takes upfront wire payments and then cuts off contact. The false address is often close to a facility that could be mistaken for a dealership in an online search. 

In addition to operating a website, San Antonio box Trucks attracts customers through online classified ads.

John Hoeglund of Helena, Montana said he lost $3,400 after wiring a down payment to the company for an RV he found through an online classified site. He flew to San Antonio to pick it up—only to find out the company didn’t exist at the advertised location. The company then quit answering his phone calls. 

“I flew to San Antonio and they played me all the way,” Hoeglund said. “At the airport, I called and said they were not there to meet me like they said they would be. The lady I talked to had an explanation. She said ‘Oh, he forgot his nameboard. He’s right there. A tall guy with a beard and a blue hat.’ 

“I called again and the number rang and they didn’t pick up. I went to the site using Google Maps and found CPS Energy instead. I went across the street to the Valero station. They said someone had come in the day before asking the same thing. They said there’s no such thing as San Antonio Box Trucks.”

Gary Morettin of Illinois said he almost sent the company money for an RV he found in an online classified ad, but became suspicious that the company wasn’t located at its listed address. “I called CPS Electric and they confirmed their address was 4919 Houston Street, the address given by San Antonio Box Trucks. That told me I was dealing with a scam artist. I didn’t send any money, but I was close.”

BBB learned on Oct. 22 that the business was falsely claiming to be a BBB-Accredited Business and displaying a BBB seal on its website. BBB contacted the company’s sales manager by phone and requested he remove the BBB seal. BBB also requested location and other business information. The seal was removed, but BBB did not receive additional information requested.

Using Google Image Search, a BBB investigator found that a photo for the sales manager matched that of an employee at a Toledo, Ohio Isuzu dealership. A phone call to the Ohio-based dealership verified that the photo was that of its employee. The next day, the picture had been removed from saboxtrucks.com.

BBB also found that the photo of an Isuzu truck offered for sale on saboxtrucks.com was originally published on an online classified site by a Houston truck dealership.

BBB contacted CPS Energy by phone and verified that it operates a service yard at 4919 E. Houston Street. BBB also contacted an employee at a nearby Valero convenience store, who stated that several people had entered the store asking about the nonexistent San Antonio Box Trucks dealership.

San Antonio Box Truck’s phone number was disconnected as of Oct. 31, but the fax number was still working. BBB sent requests via email, asking the company to clarify its address information.

BBB offers the following advice for purchasing a vehicle online:

  • Research the seller. If the vehicle is being sold by a dealership, visit bbb.org, and verify whether it is licensed. Contact the company directly to verify whether it is selling the vehicle you’re interested in.
  • Beware of “too good to be true” offers. Scammers often use unusually discounted asking prices to attract victims. They may use hard luck stories to justify the low price, such as financial hardship. Look at other similar vehicles for sale to determine if the offer is reasonable.
  • Avoid companies that demand wire payment only. Scammers often ask victims to wire payments because the money cannot be easily tracked or retrieved in the case of fraud. Consider using an escrow company instead. If the website turns out to be fraudulent, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.
  • Meet the seller and inspect the car. Con artists prefer to use phone, chat or email, and balk at meeting face to face. BBB urges consumers not to send money without seeing the vehicle first or having it inspected by a third party of your choice. 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. Ask for the Vehicle Identification Number, (VIN) and 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.

To check a company’s BBB Business Review and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.