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BBB warning car buyers about Virtual Vehicle Vendor scams

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 6:47 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have turned to online shopping, even purchasing a vehicle over the internet. While it’s convenient and allows us to social distance, it also opens up more opportunities for scammers, including some who are selling cars that don’t exist.

The Better Business Bureau is warning people about Virtual Vehicle Vendor scams as they become more popular among scammers. The scam involves a seller offering to make third party delivery arrangements if the buyer pays via escrow.

Escrow companies function as an intermediary between the buyer and seller of a transaction. Once the funds and item being sold are collected the escrow company will finalize the transaction. However, in this case, the escrow company linked by the seller does not exist. Once the buyer transfers their money it’s stolen.

The fake escrow company will seem convincing, with claims that the company is in some way affiliated with big names such as eBay. Scammers sometimes claim the transaction is protected by the eBay Vehicle Protection Program. In the end, the buyer never receives their car and then is out money.

“Basically what they are doing is trying to prey on our good nature as far as consumers. Trying to give us and show that there’s some sort of protection there by saying, ‘Hey your money is going to be protected, it’s going to be in an escrow account,’” said Eric Rodriguez, President of Association of Certified Fraud Examiners for the Heartland Chapter.

Scammers often use the name and address of real businesses to seem more legitimate.

It happened to Omaha Dealership Sport Motors.

“We started receiving phone calls from victims saying that they were still waiting for their vehicles to be delivered and in the beginning, we didn’t know what they were talking about because we asked them, which vehicle did you buy and when because don’t have a website,” said Erika Carrillo with Sport Motors.

One way to spot a fake website is if there’s no US domain. As many of these scams are coming from Romania.

“It’ll have like Czechoslovakia, it will have CZ at the end,” said Rodriguez.

South Dakotan, Maria Iyotte almost fell victim to the ever-growing car scam.

“It’s terrible. I mean how can they steal from poor people, handicapped people. I mean, I just don’t understand how people can be like that,” said Iyotte.

Her husband realized something wasn’t right when she was asked to pay with gift cards. Something fraud experts say is a big red flag as well as wire transfers.

Other red flags include: If the price of a vehicle is significantly lower than other listings. And the seller not providing details such as a phone number or VIN number.

If you think you’ve come across a scam, you can report it online at BBB Scam Tracker.

For more information on this type of scam click here.

Copyright 2020 Dakota News Now. All rights reserved.

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