4:25 PM EDT, July 15, 2010
Scammers are creating Web sites with the names of real auto dealers and offering too-good-to-be-true deals on repossessed cars, according to the Better Business Bureau. People across the country already have lost thousands of dollars by buying nonexistent cars, according to BBB.
For example, Memphis dealership America Auto Sales (memphisautoworld.com) received more than 1,000 calls from car shoppers who shopped on a phony site (americaautosales.com) thinking it was Memphis dealership's site, according to BBB. Buyers were told to wire a deposit to an individual — rather than the company — and pay the balance when the car was delivered. The phony site claimed that this payment method would help the company avoid taxes legally. After paying, several victims called America Auto Sales to arrange delivery of their cars — and some even showed up at the dealership.
The BBB says similar Web sites have posed as dealerships in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas. To protect yourself when shopping online for cars, follow these tips:
Be suspicious of ridiculously low offers. Before buying a car, check Kelley Blue Book to find out what its market value is.
Verify that the vehicle exists. Start by getting a phone number from the seller and calling him or her (don't rely solely on e-mail communication). Ask the seller to send you a copy of the vehicle registration and the VIN, which you can use to get a vehicle history report from CARFAX.
Mind your money and personal information. When paying, don't send a personal check or wire money (a request to do so can be a scam). Do not give out your Social Security number.