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Shopping Online For A Used Car? Beware Of Scams, BBB Warns

7/26/2011

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carsSt. Louis, Mo., July 26, 2011 - The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to be on the alert for phony used car dealers using the Internet to advertise vehicles at deeply discounted prices.

The BBB says the fraudulent dealers often take detailed personal information and cash from potential customers, promising to deliver vehicles to customers' homes. The vehicles never arrive.

In the past five months, consumers have alerted the BBB to two used car scams - one supposedly located in New Florence, Mo., and the other reportedly based in Sullivan, Ill. Both operations fabricated their addresses. There is no indication that either was a legitimate business.

"People work too hard for their money to be taken by these yo-yos," said a Birmingham, Ala., consumer who alerted police to a fake dealership calling itself Edward American Cars, which claimed to be operating in Sullivan. The consumer said he was keenly aware of the potential problems of car scams after previously losing $5,500 to an online thief.

Sullivan Police Chief John Love said that the address advertised by that business - in the 500 block of South Sixth Street - actually is the home of a long-time city employee who has no involvement in any car business. Love said the case has been turned over to state investigators.

Love has taken several calls from consumers across the U.S. who questioned the legitimacy of the online site. He said he was aware of no one who lost money in the scheme, but several people said they were worried that their personal information may have been compromised.

In February, a consumer from West Virginia told the BBB he lost nearly $7,400 after buying a vehicle from Quick Auto Sales, which hijacked an address in New Florence, Mo.  The address turned out to be the site of an abandoned service station.

“It’s sad that there are people like that,” said the man who had recently lost his job.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said consumers should be careful about making any advance payments for items marketed through the Internet, especially if they are not familiar with the business.

“Just because the picture is pretty and the price is right doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind,” Corey said. 

The BBB offers the following tips for consumers interested in buying vehicles online:

  • Buy from an established business with a good reputation.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the business, check its address to make sure it has offices where it says it does.  If you have continuing concerns, contact the building manager or other tenants to confirm the business address.
  • Whenever possible, pay by credit card in case you need to challenge the purchase.
  • Be wary of prices that seem unusually low. Low prices are the best way for a fraudulent business to attract victims.
  • Get a BBB Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-584-6800, mcorey@stlouisbbb.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743 or 314-681-4719 (cell), communications@stlouisbbb.org, or Bill Smith, 314-584-6727, tpc1@stlouisbbb.org
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