DEDHAM, Mass. — If you shop online for a used car and see a fantastic price, the Better Business Bureau says watch out.
The BBB is warning of a scam that targets car buyers who shop in online marketplaces like Facebook, Craigslist and eBay.
“If a price is too good to be true, then it’s probably a scam,” says Paula Fleming, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer with the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Massachusetts.
Here’s how the scam works: You find a used car with a really good price, then contact the seller. The seller might give you a sob story, like they just inherited the car from a relative who died. They tell you the vehicle is in another city. Fortunately, they know a transport company that will deliver the car, you just have to pay the transport company a fee. Once you’ve wired the money to this third-party transport company, your vehicle will never show up and your money is gone.
According to the BBB, a consumer reported a scammer claimed to be selling a car on behalf of their aunt who inherited it from her recently deceased father.
“The ‘Auntie’ claimed she was a nurse and worked shifts, and that my daughter’s original email had fallen into her junk folder. “The ‘Auntie’ had moved to another province thousands of miles from us. But if my daughter wanted to purchase the car for the stated price (which was well under the going price for a vehicle of this type, year and mileage), the Auntie had a contract with an automotive transport company,” the consumer told the BBB .
“Once you’ve paid the third-party company, usually by a wire transfer or prepaid debit card, your vehicle won’t be delivered. The sale was a scam, and the con artist was in cahoots with the third-party transport company,” the BBB said.
Fleming said there’s not much that can be done to recoup the victim’s money.
“Unfortunately, we’re trying to work with them and we’re trying to work with the [respective] government agencies, but in the majority of these cases the money is gone,” Fleming said.
Here’s how the BBB says you can avoid this scam:
KNOW THE TRUE VALUE OF THE CAR—If the seller is asking for an extraordinarily low price, that’s a red flag.
CONTACT THE SELLER ON THE PHONE—Speak to the seller as early as possible, ask plenty of questions and if they get defensive or aggressive or can’t give you an idea of where the car is, avoid that sale.
SEE THE CAR BEFORE YOU BUY IT—Always make an in-person inspection and take a test drive before you buy a vehicle.
DON’T WIRE FUNDS FOR A CAR—The BBB said scammers often ask for wired funds because they’re hard to track and there’s no way to get your money back. It’s best to make large purchases by check or credit card.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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