OKLAHOMA (OBV) – Oklahoma’s attorney general is warning Oklahomans about the surge in online car sale scams, and providing tips on how to avoid such fraud.
You may have been online and seen an advertisement for a vehicle that seemed too good to be true.
The ad is offering a car or another vehicle on sale at a deeply discounted price. The ad even appears on a website that looks to be that of a legitimate out-of-state dealership or auction site. Even more reassuring are the photos that match the description of the advertised vehicle as well as vehicle identification numbers. Also, for additional reassurance, the dealer claims to be connected to a well-known company and provides contact information that appears to be legitimate.
The ad in the above scenario is likely a scam, according to Attorney General Gentner Drummond.
Potential buyers who contact the scammer regarding the astonishingly low price are usually provided an excuse that sounds credible.
The scammer will typically instruct buyers who are ready to purchase to use a wire purchase or prepaid gift card.
Upon receiving payment, the scammer will sometimes continue the charade of legitimacy by providing a tracking number or other delivery instructions.
Ultimately, the scammer will stop communicating and disappear, and the sold vehicle is never delivered.
“This scam has long been a favorite of criminals and incidents of it appear to be on the rise over the past year,” Drummond said. “When buying a car online, be extra vigilant. These unscrupulous actors can sound convincing. Don’t be afraid to push back and ask questions, and never be rushed into making large purchases like these.”
A Better Business Bureau report states that online car sale scams began flourishing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many buyers ask to inspect the car or to meet the seller in person, but scammers often use COVID-19 as an excuse to avoid meeting, which makes this type of fraud more successful,” the report states.
BBB’s report provided the following indicators of an online car sale scam:
- The price of the vehicle for sale is almost always far below market value.
- To justify selling the car quickly at a low price, the bogus seller may claim to be deploying overseas, going through a divorce or suffering the loss of a husband or son who owned the car, which brings painful memories.
- Sellers never meet buyers in person nor allow the buyer to see the actual vehicle.
- Bogus sellers claim it is safe for interested buyers to send money. They assert that the transaction is protected by eBay Motors or an independent third party shipping company that will hold the funds in escrow until the buyer receives and approves the vehicle. In reality, eBay’s protections only apply to items where the transaction is all on its platform. Crooks regularly use eBay’s name, even sending fake invoices with the company’s letterhead or sending emails that appear to be from the company.
Online car sale scams are mostly reported by people ages 55-64.
|Percent of reports
|No age info provided
The scam has claimed victims in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and European nations. The culprits who have been prosecuted in the U.S. and Europe have primarily been Romanian. Such scams began in the Romanian town of Valcea, where people began making money by selling items online that they did not actually have. Fraudsters in Cameroon have been engaged in similar scams.
“As the scams succeeded, the threat quickly grew with gang members located across Europe, the U.S. and Canada,” the BBB report states.
The Attorney General’s Office’s Consumer Protection Unit provided the following tips to avoid falling for the scam:
- If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Always verify the car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN. The 17-character VIN can be found on various websites such as the National Insurance Crime Bureau (nicb.org/vincheck).
- Always inspect a car before purchase. Do not accept excuses that the car is not currently in the seller’s possession.
- Don’t pay by wire or other non-reversible forms of payment that are hard to trace.
- Only pay for a vehicle after you have received it.