Man loses $82,000 in fraudulent car sale

INDIANAPOLIS — Prices for used cars are through the roof and thieves are taking advantage of consumers’ desires for vehicles. One man is out $82,000 after falling victim to a fraudulent deal.

“Scammers are really good about knowing what’s going on in the world and adapting to that to try and entice people,” said Jennifer Adamany, director of communication for the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana. “So, the fact that it’s hard to get a car right now and the price is so high, they see there’s a target market for them to try to offer a too-good-to-be-true deal for people.”

The BBB said a man from California thought he was purchasing a vehicle from a dealer in Indiana. He learned the vehicle and the dealership didn’t exist, but not until after a loss of $82,000.

Adamany advises buyers to opt to see a vehicle in person before purchase, if possible.

“If you can, try not to buy a car without first seeing it and taking that test drive,” Adamany said. “If you are able to, get the salesperson or manager on the phone or see in person because if they are avoiding talking to you or they can’t confirm their location or where the vehicle is actually located, those are red flags.”

The BBB said a few of the common tricks fraudsters are perpetuating right now is listing a vehicle online through a sponsored social media ad. After starting to communicate with the customer, the person placing the ad will tell them a loved one died and they want to get rid of the vehicle because it brings back bad memories, or another deal fell through and the car is ready to be shipped.

“If they’re trying to ask for a payment through a wire transfer, even nowadays cryptocurrency, gift cards, that’s going to be a red flag because it’s really hard to get your money back with those types of purchases,” Adamany said.

In each situation, the BBB said the fraudster assures the payer the transaction will happen through a third party buyer protection program.

“They will often try to guarantee that it’s protected, but just keep in mind that transactions on places like eBay, PayPal, Craig’s list, warn they can’t necessarily guarantee the people using their services are legitimate,” Adamany said.

The BBB said once people pay, the bad actor usually stops responding to calls, texts and emails.

The BBB sent along these tips to protect consumers from fraudulent online car sales:

  • 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.  

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