Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin issued an advisory today warning consumers to be cautious of fraudulent online vehicle sales and false claims of vehicle protection programs.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), numerous complaints nationwide of fraudulent vehicle sales have been reported in which scammers attempt to sell vehicles they do not own or do not exist. The scam artist lures potential buyers by advertising vehicles drastically below book value. In addition to offering exorbitantly low prices, the scam artist will try to rush the deal.
Typically the scam artist will ask for a full or partial payment to be sent to a third-party agent via wire transfer; the scam artist keeps the money, but does not deliver the vehicle. To push the sale, the scam artist may say they need to complete the transaction quickly because they are moving, have been deployed by the military, or have a family illness. As a result the consumer is unable to physically view the vehicle before purchase. Scam artists also misuse the names of reputable companies and programs so that the offer appears valid.
In actuality these scammers have no association with the companies, and the instructions they give buyers do not follow the rules and regulations of any legitimate program. For example, the eBay Motors Vehicle Protection Plan (VPP) is a reputable program whose name is frequently misused by these scammers. A new tactic used by scammers is the live chat feature in email correspondence. The scammers answer buyers’ questions, giving false reassurance that the deals are safe.
“With advances in technology, scammers are constantly coming up with creative ways to rip off consumers,” said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. “By falsely using the name of a reputable online retailer, these schemes commit two crimes – defrauding consumers and damaging the credibility of legitimate businesses. I urge consumers to use caution when making online purchases. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Attorney General Kilmartin reminds consumers to use due diligence before engaging in transactions to purchase vehicles advertised online. Consumers should be cautious of the following:
Sellers who refuse to meet in person, or refuse to allow the buyer to physically inspect the vehicle before purchase.
Transactions where the seller and vehicle are in different locations.
Sellers who push for speedy completion of the transaction and request payments via quick wire transfer payment systems.
Sellers who want to move the transaction from one platform to another (for example, Craigslist to eBay Motors).
Vehicles advertised at well below their market value.
Sellers who claim that a buyer protection program offered by a major Internet company covers an auto transaction conducted outside of that company’s site.
If you have fallen victim to this type of scam, please file a complaint with the IC3 at www.IC3.gov.
Several federal law enforcement agencies in the United States as well as agencies in Romania are working together to get the people involved in these schemes arrested and prosecuted. It is believed that most of these schemes are run out of Romania with facilitators of the payments based here in the U.S. There have been hundreds of arrests overseas and here in the last year, but the fraud continues to thrive.