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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Internet car buying scams trick many

I have pasted a news story below that highlights the ever increasing issues with internet fraud related to automobile purchases.  Several years ago I had two different friends fall victim to deals to good to be true that involved wiring money to England.  Both thought their money was secure until they released it, but found out someone created counterfeit identifications and released the money without the knowledge of my friend.  One lost a few thousand and the other about six thousand dollars. 
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Between 2008 and 2010 there have been almost 14,000 complaints from consumers who have been victimized by online auto-buying scams. Victims report losing nearly $44.5 million, the FBI reports.
The FBI describes the scam:
"Consumers find a vehicle they like -- often at a below-market price -- on a legitimate website. The buyer contacts the seller, usually through an email address in the ad, to indicate their interest. The seller responds via email, often with a hard-luck story about why they want to sell the vehicle and at such a good price.
"In the email, the seller asks the buyer to move the transaction to the website of another online company ... for security reasons and then offers a buyer-protection plan in the name of a major Internet company such as AutoTrader.com, Craigslist or eBay. Through the new website, the buyer receives an invoice and is instructed to wire the funds for the vehicle to an account somewhere. In a new twist, sometimes the criminals pose as company representatives in a live chat to answer questions from buyers.
"Once the funds are wired, the buyer may be asked by the seller to fax a receipt to show that the transaction has taken place. And then the seller and buyer agree upon a time for the delivery of the vehicle.
"Typically the ad the consumer sees is either completely phony or was hijacked from another website. The buyer is asked to move from a legitimate website to a spoofed website, where it's easier for the criminal to conduct business. The buyer protection plan offered as part of the deal is bogus. And the buyer is asked to fax the seller proof of the transaction so the crooks know when the funds are available for stealing.
"And by the time buyers realize they've been scammed, the criminals -- and the money -- are long gone."
The FBI said consumers should be alert for red flags including:
  • Cars are advertised at too-good-to-be true prices;
  • Sellers want to move transactions from the original website to another site;
  • Sellers claim that a buyer protection program offered by a major Internet company covers an auto transaction conducted outside that company's website;
  • Sellers refuse to meet in person or allow potential buyers to inspect the car ahead of time;
  • Sellers who say they want to sell the car because they're in the U.S. military about to be deployed, are moving, the car belonged to someone who recently died, or a similar story;
  • Sellers who ask for funds to be wired ahead of time.
If you believe you have been the victim of an online scam;
  • Close your account immediately
  • Set up a fraud alert with the 3 national consumer agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion)
  • Contact your local law enforcement agency and file a police report
  • Watch your credit reports closely
  • Look for odd things in the mail such as credit card applications and bills for items you did not personally purchase
Written by Michael Cooney, Network World

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