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Car Buyers Beware: FBI Warns of Online Car Scam

» Posted March 19, 2018Resources | Share This Post

Car buyers are at risk of loss due to defective vehicles and unscrupulous dealers. While there are consumer protection laws in place such as California's lemon law, there are still many situations in which car buyers end up losing money because of scams or serious vehicle problems.

Just recently, WBSTV reported on a scam that the FBI is warning car buyers to be aware of. The scam is targeting people who are shopping for vehicles online.

Car Buyers Being Targeted by Online Scam

According to WBSTV, the FBI has issued a warning that there are online scammers targeting not only people buying cars but also people buying boats and RVs. Many of these scammers do not even own the vehicles that they are purporting to sell to unsuspecting buyers.

The scams typically involve a seller posting a fraudulent advertisement online. The seller includes pictures of the vehicle that is allegedly for sale, along with contact information for the so-called owner.  The car, RV, or other vehicle is priced at a steep discount.

When people respond to the ad, the scammer provides myriad explanations for the discount on the vehicle. The scammer claims to be moving due to being deployed for military service; selling a car he got as a part of a divorce settlement; or selling the vehicle of a relative who passed away. The seller then claims he's partnered with eBay or some other reliable site to sell the car and will assure the buyer that he or she can purchase the car through a third party buyer protection program.

The scammer then emails the buyer with a fake toll-free telephone number that is answered by someone pretending to be from eBay or from the reliable third party service. The third party seller tells the buyer to buy prepaid gift cards for the sale price and to send the gift codes to the so-called seller.

The buyer is promised that the vehicle will be delivered within a few days, but of course no car ever comes once the scammer has received the gift card information.  The buyer is unable to get his money back in most of these situations because the untraceable scammer has the gift cards and has usually spent them by the time the vehicle fails to show up.

The FBI indicates that its Internet Crime Complaint Center received a total of 26,967 complaints between May 2014 and December 2017 in connection with fraudulent sales of vehicles that do not actually exist. The consumers who fell for these scams experienced $54,032,396 in financial losses.

While it can be difficult or impossible to get money back after falling victim to a car scam, there are options available for some car buyers who end up purchasing new vehicles that turn out to be defective. A Los Angeles lemon law attorney can provide some consumers with a remedy, so if you have purchased a new car that does not work as expected, you should reach out to an attorney for help as soon as possible.


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