CT BBB Scam Alert: High Demand for Used Cars Leads to Online Purchase Scams

CROMWELL, CT — With used car prices skyrocketing recently, consumers are turning to the internet to find a deal. Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut is warning consumers to hit the brakes on these types of transactions. Our office has received multiple inquiries and reports to BBB’s Scam Tracker about a con involving used cars purchased over the internet.
How the Scam Works
You see a used car listing online or through a sponsored ad on social media. You begin communicating with the seller. You agree to the deal and are asked to wire money for the vehicle to a shipping/escrow company. The seller claims they will keep your payment in escrow for five days to make sure you’re satisfied with your purchase. 
In another scam, the seller claims that her husband has recently died and that she’s trying to get rid of his old car because it’s “brought back bad memories.” The seller says someone else was going to buy the car but didn’t get the loan, so it’s ready to be shipped. 
In each instance, the criminal makes the fraud appear legitimate by assuring that the transaction will occur through a third party’s buyer protection program. So far, our investigation reveals that all of the company websites point to a virtual office in Hartford.
According to the FBI, scammers may fake a sense of urgency for selling the car, such as moving or being deployed by the military and receiving the vehicle as part of a divorce settlement. 
After the transaction, the criminal typically ignores all follow-up calls, text messages, and e-mails or may demand additional payments. In the end, the consumer does not receive their car and is never able to recoup their losses. Aside from the monetary losses, consumers may put personal banking information at risk through these scams.
Avoid Online Car Sales Scams
  • Never wire funds or complete bank-to-bank transactions. Scammers love this kind of transaction because there is no way for you to get your money back once it is completed. Instead, make legitimate purchases by check or credit-card.
  • Watch out for too good to be true deals. They are most likely a scam. Scammers often steal consumers’ personal information and money by offering them high-value goods at extremely discounted prices.
  • Contact the seller by phone. At some point during your negotiations, speak with the sales manager on the phone. If they are unusually vague about certain details of the sale or cannot confirm their location or the vehicle location, it’s most likely a scam.
  • See the car first. Never buy a car without making an in-person inspection and taking a test drive first.
  • Don’t give in to pressure. Scammers often try to pressure you into giving up your personal information or making a down payment before you have time to think about the purchase. Take your time and think a deal over before agreeing to anything. If you get a bad feeling, listen to your gut.
  • Don’t trust a seller or buyer who says that the transaction is guaranteed by eBay, PayPal, Craigslist, or another online marketplace. These sites explicitly explain they cannot guarantee that people using their services are legitimate. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. 
For More Information
To learn more, see the BBB tips on buying a new car and buying a used car. You can also look up car dealerships at BBB.org to check their business rating and read customer reviews.
To report a scam visit BBB's Scam Tracker
Read the FBI's Alert on Online Vehicle Fraud


Follow Fairfield HamletHub