FBI Scam Alert: Online Car Sales

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The FBI issued a national scam alert Monday, warning consumers to beware of online fraudsters trying to sell them used vehicles or enrollment in a vehicle protection program.

According to the alert, the fraudsters advertise that they have a vehicle for sale on a popular website like Craigslist or eBay Motors, well below its book value. They say they are selling the vehicle for such a low price because they are in the process of moving for work or are being deployed by the military. The impending move is not only meant to justify the low price, but also the seller’s inability to meet the buyer in person and/or to refuse a vehicle inspection. Instead, they ask that the buyer wire full or partial payment to a third-party agent using Western Union or MoneyGram and to fax the payment receipt to the seller as proof of payment. However, as with other scams that involve a wire transfer, the seller pockets the money and never delivers the vehicle.

To make the scam appear more legitimate, fraudsters will also say that the sale is covered by a vehicle protection program offered by a legitimate company, most commonly referencing eBay Motors.  

In a new twist, criminals use a live-chat feature in e-mail correspondence and electronic invoices to answer a target victim’s questions and assure them the deals are safe. They falsely assert that their sales are protected by liability insurance coverage up to $50,000.

The FBI said that while eBay Motors does offer a legitimate vehicle protection program, it does not, as cited by the scammers, cover an auto transaction conducted outside that company’s site.

The agency also said that people shopping for vehicles online should be wary of sellers who try to move the transaction from one platform to another (for example, from Craigslist to eBay Motors), transactions in which the seller and vehicle are in different locations and those where vehicles are advertised at well below their market value.

“Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” the FBI said in a press release.

Old school scams with a twist seems to be a trend amongst modern-day scammers. Earlier this month, the BBB warned consumers to beware new variations on the grandparents scam and mystery shopper scam.

The FBI has asked anyone who believes they have encountered or fallen victim to this latest scam to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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