Shopping online is a convenient way to research and purchase a car, but a public service announcement from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center is warning consumers of scams that use the names of well-known automotive sites to lure car buyers into purchasing a vehicle that doesn’t exist.
Here is one example given of how the scams work: A perpetrator would post a fraudulent listing on a site such as Craigslist and offer a vehicle protection program from a site like eBay. It looks legit, because they use the official logo to gain the buyers trust to continue the transaction. The “seller” then asks the buyer to wire money, but it ends up there is no car. In reality, the only way to get eBay’s protection program is to buy direct on eBayMotors.com.
According to the FBI, consumer complaints rose 25 percent in 2010 and every 90 minutes another complaint is filed. Every hour a car buyer loses more than $1,000.
Here are some tips to ensure you are not scammed on your next car purchase:
- Don’t buy sight unseen. Research and inspect the car to check mileage and condition. Review the title and investigate the car’s history.
- Do a background check. Find out more about the seller including ratings and comments. Insist on speaking on the phone or communicate through a secure web site.
- Do not send money through wire services. Pay for the vehicle in person and get a receipt.
If you’re shopping online for a new car, take the safe route and try Consumer Reports’ Build & Buy service where you can get guaranteed price quotes from more than 5,000 pre-screened dealers. This no-obligation service saves time, as well as money, and it is free to all ConsumerReports.org subscribers. On average, car buyers have saved $4,417 off MSRP by using the service.