Watch Out For Too-Good-To-Be-True Car Deals Online

The Better Busines Bureau warns against flim-flam folks who pretend to sell cars, posing with websites with syntax close to the names of reputable dealers. These guys aim to take you for a ride all right.

From a BBB press release:

Better Business Bureau is warning car shoppers to beware of websites offering too-good-to-be-true deals on repossessed cars. BBB has heard from people across the country who thought they were buying from a reputable dealer online but were actually sending money to scammers posing as legitimate, already-established community dealerships.

“Because scammers essentially steal the identity and good name of real auto dealers, car shoppers will think that they’re buying a car from a reputable business,” said Kim States, BBB President. “The truth is, they’re being sold a bill of goods by a coordinated, agile and in all likelihood overseas outfit of scammers.”

Most recently, one Memphis auto dealer, America Auto Sales (, received more than 1,000 calls from consumers across the country who had shopped for a new car on thinking that it was the website of the Memphis dealership. The phony website used the name, address and contact information of the real dealer.

The fraudulent website claimed to sell repossessed cars at prices well below market. Buyers were instructed to wire a deposit—as much as $5,000—to an individual rather than the company, which, according to the phony website, “helps us avoid taxes legally.” The balance was to be paid upon delivery at the consumer’s address within five days.

After paying the deposit, victims called the real dealership to arrange delivery of their car. Some customers even showed up at the lot to pick up the cars they had “bought” on the bogus site.

The BBB says similar sites have been spotted aping dealers in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas. It warns you should watch out for dealers who only communicate electronically and only accept payment via wire transfer.

If you’ve bought a car online, how have you protected yourself?


Edit Your Comment

  1. FatLynn says:

    If it involves a wire transfer, it is a scam. What’s so hard about that?

    • Draygonia says:

      Exactly, this is not news… anything that requires people send money first and get a product afterwards is a scam…

  2. nbs2 says:

    I’d prefer to pay by wire transfer for a large purchase. Of course, you don’t want to make payment until you’ve seen the vehicle in person and gotten instruction from the dealership. I mean, who actually buys a car without taking a test drive?

    • humphrmi says:

      Why would a legitimate auto dealer require a wire transfer? Oh yeah, to “avoid taxes legally”, right, because there are legal ways to evade taxes, and the mechanism of transferring money by wire is pivotal to that process. /s

      Wire transfers are going the way of the dodo bird. They’re insecure, they don’t provide a reasonable paper trail, and they will likely get you flagged as a scammer, their victim, or a terrorist by your bank, or worse, the government. There are plenty of other ways to transfer large amounts of money securely.

      If any dealer asked me for a wire transfer, even in person, I’d run (not walk) away.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I mean, who actually buys a car without taking a test drive?

      I was wondering the same thing, especially on a repo.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      You’ve never been to an auto auction then. At no auction I’ve been to have people been allowed to drive the car.

  3. leprechaunshawn says:

    I can’t believe that people are actually stupid enough to fall for the old “wire me the money and I’ll send you the product” scam.

    On second thought, it’s not that hard to believe, lots of people are really stupid.

  4. Dutchess says:

    Shouldn’t this read “Watch out for too-good-to-be-true deals __________”

  5. jim says:

    easier than a nigerian inheritance I suppose

  6. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    A friend of a friend fell for a different scam while, _selling_ his car. He was returning to India after working in the States for an Indian contractor. He had scrimped and saved up and was hoping to recoup some of the money from the car. The buyer grossly overpaid for the car with what I assume was a Nigerian check. The buyer was generous to pay an extra grand for the trouble of setting up transport to his country. Just wire the difference back. He lost everything in his bank account, his life savings, just before having to return to India. The bank wanted five thousand dollars more to cover the money wired out and would not help him deal with the scammer. I had him tell the bank, “My visa expired and I have to leave the country, I’ve lost all my money, how can I help?” The bank just wrote it off.

  7. Beeker26 says:

    Can I get the email addresses of the people that have fallen for this? Cause I have a few bridges to unload.

  8. cash_da_pibble says:

    csb alert-

    My fiancee was looking at vehicles locally through craigslist, and he found a simply amazing deal on a near-new truck, but it was in Medford, Oregon. He emailed the guy and asked what the gig was- something about divorcing his wife and needing mortgage money, and having a friend who could ship it, no questions asked he just needed 1/2 up front before he shipped. I told the bf to check the local ads in Medford- and sure enough, it turned up, with a different story,different contact, different specs and a lot less money. It also turned up in Portland and in Bend.


    / csb

  9. gman863 says:

    Aside from the wire the money up front part, what type of idiot would buy a used car sight unseen from a total stranger?

    Salvage title? Wrecked? Bent frame? Flood damage? After a major hurricane, flood damaged cars are often trucked to and sold in areas where people don’t think about what six feet of salt water does to a vehicle.

  10. oops says:

    Nice article. I have one comment. What (or where) are these so called ‘reputable dealers’ that you mention. I would dearly love to find just one. In my opinion, ALL car dealers (and sales people) are crooked. Go ahead – prove me wrong. – Please.