Fraudulent Online Vehicle Sales


  1. I recently received a public service announcement from the FBI that I thought I should share with your listeners.  
  2. This is a warning regarding the fraudulent on line sale of cars and other recreational vehicles.
  3. Here’s how it works: Criminals are posting online advertisements of items that they don’t have! 

Comment:  So this could be a posting on Craig’s List?

  1. Yes, any online sales site.  And the ad usually includes photos matching the description of the car, along with a phone number or email address to contact the supposed seller. 

Comment:   A lot of people buy and sell on line, and these are legitimate sales.   How can you tell the difference between a fraudulent sale, and one that’s legit?

  1. Usually the price is much discounted, and there is a need for speed.                                                                                                               
  2. Once you make contact, the criminal will send you more photos along with a seemingly logical explanation, such as:
  • The seller is moving to another location or being deployed to the military
  • The seller received the car as part of a divorce settlement
  • The car belonged to a relative who has died.

Comment:  So the crook is trying to make it sound like they just want to get rid of the car, and will take a lower price

  1.   And of course they are usually out of state so the sale can’t happen face to face.

Comment:  So how is the transaction supposed to take place?

  1. Here’s the big red flag.   The buyer is told to purchase pre-paid gift cards in the amount of the sale price and to share the code on the back of the card with the seller.

Comment:   It seems that this is a red flag for so many scams.   If you are told to pay by way of a prepaid gift card, like a green dot card, it’s a scam.

  1. Very true.   And of course once you had purchased the gift card and given the crook the numbers on the back, the crook can activate the card and take the money.

Comment:   And I’m assuming the car will not be delivered. 

  1. That’s right. The crook will tell you the car will be delivered in a couple of days, but it never happens, and phone calls will go unanswered.

Comment:   If you want to purchase something on line, how do you protect yourself from this kind of scam?

  1. The FBI gives some tips:
  • Be suspicious if the purchase price is too low. 
  • Avoid sellers who refuse to meet in person or who refuse to allow you to physically inspect the car.
  • Ask for the vin number, license plate and the name of the current registered owner
  • Use the internet to research the person or company involved in selling the car

Comment:   So if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.    If someone is a victim of this scam, where should they report it?

  1. The FBI asks that you report this on their website,
  2. I also wanted to remind your listeners of something very important: If you lost money to a scammer and the scammer had you send money through Western Union, you can file a claim to get your money back!  
  3. For example, if you fell victim to the sweetheart scam, or the tech support scam, or the lottery scam, any scam where you sent money to Western Union, you can file a claim with the Federal Trade Commission

Comment:  Is there a site people should go to?

  1. Yes, it’s The FTC stands for Federal Trade Commission, and the WU stands for Western Union.

Comment:  Is there a deadline for filing this claim?

  1. Yes, and this is really important: You need to file by May 31st of this year.   And your loss has to be between 1/1/04 and 1/19/17

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