Better Business Bureau warns of online car scam

Scammer will often have sense of urgency, experts warn
Posted at 4:52 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 18:31:09-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — If you are planning to purchase a car online, think twice before you buy it.

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about scammers who post about a car that doesn't exist and use fake escrow companies to accept the money.

"People are looking to do a lot of socially-distanced transactions, and really anything that is virtual now is very popular, so obviously consumers or people looking to buy cars will go online and see how they can acquire these cars without really having to do a lot of face-to-face transactions," said Cinthya Lavin, the director of communications for the South Florida BBB.

A recent BBB investigation showed this scam is tied to Romanian organized crime.

Once interested buyers wire money, it is nearly impossible to get it back. Lavin said scammers will create a sense of urgency.

Cinthya Lavin
Cinthya Lavin, the director of communications for the South Florida Better Business Bureau

"They [will say they] have to get rid of the car because they're moving sooner, they're moving overseas, they need the money for a family emergency. So, they look to move the person interested in the car away from any platforms and really ask for a bank transfer, and any bank transfer to someone you don't know on the other side of the computer is likely a scam," said Lavin.

If you come across an online ad, here are some of the telltale signs it is a scam:

  • If the deal sounds too good to be true
  • The person creates a sense of urgency that there are other buyers or they need to leave, and you will miss out on the opportunity
  • Trying to move you away from secure platforms where you are trying to purchase the car.

Lavin said you should be allowed to ask as many questions as you want and not feel rushed to make the purchase.

She said you should be able to schedule a video call with the seller or meet and see the car in person. Make sure there is a secured payment option through a legitimate online platform.