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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > December 2012 > Be Wary of Online Vehicle Sales

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Be Wary of Online Vehicle Sales

Ohio consumers are reporting vehicle sales fraud involving online marketplaces. Scam artists tell exaggerated stories to lure consumers into wire-transferring large sums of money for vehicles that don’t exist. In most cases, wire transferred funds are nearly impossible to recover. Learn how to identify these scams and protect yourself when shopping for vehicles online.
The dangers of purchasing vehicles online
In one recent case, an Ohio consumer submitted a few inquiries to a well-known car sales website. A “seller” — claiming to have a truck for sale at less than its market value — contacted the consumer. The seller explained that he wanted to sell the truck as soon as possible because it reminded him of his deceased wife. 
The consumer agreed to purchase the truck, received an invoice by e-mail, and then wire-transferred the money for the vehicle to Seattle. The “seller” agreed to have the vehicle shipped from Oklahoma City. The consumer sent the money, but the vehicle never arrived. Ultimately, the scam cost the consumer $5,528, including wire fees.
How to protect yourself
If you are in the market for a new vehicle, consult local, reputable dealers or individual sellers in the area. Don’t rely solely on information you find online. If you decide to purchase a vehicle online, make sure you can meet the seller in person to inspect the vehicle.
Be wary of any sellers who ask you to send payment via wire transfer, even if it’s a bank-to-bank wire transfer. Similarly, be skeptical of sellers who offer you a discount to send payment outside the website’s established payment system. Even an official-looking invoice that appears to be from a well-known website could be phony.
Also, be suspicious if the seller advertises the vehicle for less than its retail market value and provides an elaborate story as to why. Scammers often incorporate stories to trick consumers into thinking that the deal is too good to pass up.
Remember, if the “deal” sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 
If you lose money in an online vehicle sale scam, file a police report and report the scam to the payment service you used. For example, if you wired the money, file a report with the wire-transfer company.
Also, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or to report a potential scam or to get more information.