Online Car Sales Increase Scam Potential, Warns Better Business Bureau

August 05, 2013

Clearwater, FL – July 25, 2013 – Today there is an increasing number of consumers purchasing cars online. With that there is an increasing opportunity for consumers to be scammed. In some cases buyers purchase vehicles advertised, at a price often below book value, by individuals who don’t own them. The scammer never meets the customers in person and requires that payment be made via wire transfer. In the end, the scammer gets the money and the consumer gets nothing. BBB serving West Florida advises consumers to be on the lookout for red flags when considering an online car sale.

“Because consumers may see the price as a pretty good deal they often act quickly, without any investigation and that’s where they get into trouble,” said Karen Nalven, President of BBB serving West Florida. “Consumers need to use the same, if not greater precautions on line, that they would use making a purchase at a dealership.”

BBB offers the following tips for online car shopping:

  • Check the vehicle’s price. Before buying a car, check out a similar make and model’s price on other websites. If the price is way below market value, it’s probably a scam.
  • Communicate with the seller. If a seller refuses to meet in person, this is a bad sign. Sellers should also allow the buyer to inspect the vehicle before making payment.
  • Be careful with the transaction. Be cautious of transactions in which the seller and the vehicle are in different locations. The seller may claim they are not able to take the car along because of military deployment, moving because of family circumstances, or job relocation. Scammers also try to push for quick payments via wire payment system - never send money using this payment method.
  • Check the vehicle identification number. When you check out the car, make sure the vehicle identification number (VIN) matches with the number on the paperwork. The VIN can be found on the car’s dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Make sure the VIN number on the card matches the number on the insurance card, insurance policy and vehicle title and registration.


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