Better Business Bureau is warning of an auto sales scheme claiming to be based in Billings, Mont. Consumers have reported going to vehicle listing sites like CarsForSale.com and AutoTrader.com and find a car priced much lower than expected. The consumer then connects with the seller, who insists on using a company called Billings United to process shipping. Unfortunately, Billings United doesn’t exist.
According to BBB’s investigation, Billings United is not registered with the Montana Secretary of State. Also, while in the midst of researching the company, Billings United changed the address on their website from the U.S. Marshals Office in downtown Billings to the address of a warehouse currently occupied by another business. Their website, Billings-United.com appears to be originating from Russia and has only been a registered website since January.
One man from Alabama, who communicated with Billings United for over a week about purchasing and shipping a vehicle, was provided with images of vehicle titles, inspection reports, and complete purchase contracts for the sale. BBB believes these documents are likely fake.
Once the price and specifications of the sale were agreed upon, the man was encouraged to create an account through Billings United’s website, which would act as an escrow service. He was even told that he could take possession of the vehicle for a week, and he could return it if it didn’t suit his needs. The consumer then called Better Business Bureau, which warned him this sounded like a scam.
BBB encourages vehicle purchasers to do their due diligence and look for the following red flags when buying a car sight unseen:
If the price seems too good to be true, there’s probably something wrong. Be wary if the car’s price is significantly lower than what you’ve seen elsewhere.
Beware of sellers who want to conclude a transaction as quickly as possible. Scammers want to get your money before you have time to think or have a professional examine the deal.
Watch out for sellers who want you to wire money instead of using a check or credit card. Call the seller to establish phone contact. If he/she neglects details agreed to via e-mail or is unable to answer questions about their location, it is likely to be a scam.
Make sure websites are secure and authenticated before you purchase an item online. Look for “https” before the web address and online seals that ensure your credit card and/or banking information is secure.
Use only well-known escrow services. As mentioned above, some fake car dealer websites use escrow services controlled by scammers. Check the escrow company’s history with BBB at bbb.org.