Imagine the surprise when a customer calls and says he wants to deposit $25000 for a car, supposedly on a Boise auto dealer’s lot.
“He said he had the cash ready to send, but wanted me to take a picture of the car as it sat on the lot, before he’d send the money,” says Freeman Dawson, owner, Maverick Car Company. “Unfortunately, or fortunately I should say, I had to tell him we won’t deliver the car, we don’t have it here, and don’t pay anything to anyone.”
The strange call and offer of deposit caused Maverick Car Company, on West Fairview in Boise, to investigate. Dawson learned the company was the victim of an overseas spoofing scam that has become familiar in the Snake River Region.
A fake car sales company, Astoria Motors, address unknown, was using the company’s physical address to trick shoppers into thinking the cars on Maverick’s lot were representative inventory.
During the investigation, BBB found Astoria Motors website was created on June 1, 2013, and registered to John Bramblett, in Haney, British Columbia. (Haney does not come up on Internet map searches).
Better Business Bureau CEO Dale Dixon said, “This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a scam artist take the name of a legitimate dealer, set up a fake website, post pictures of cars and convince potential victims to wire money to have the cars shipped.
The shakedown is operated with a website, using the address of unsuspecting used car dealers. The website claims to have great deals on prestigious and upper-class models. Generally, the cars are listed at thousands under market prices, enticing the buyer.
“The real auto dealers must stay vigilant to be sure their name is not misused online,” Dixon said. “It’s a valuable lesson for people wanting a good deal on a used car: don’t believe the website. Do your research. Check with Better Business Bureau at bbb.org to verify the dealer and website are legitimate.”
Points to remember when buying a car on the Internet:
Authenticate a listing. Do an Internet image search. Check the make and model and compare images. Does the car show up on more than one website? If it does, it indicates the image has been copied from another site. Check the phone number –place quotation marks around each entry when doing a search, says Dixon. Are there more than one?
“They’ll find any other place online where the number has been used,” he says, explaining they can uncover whether it belongs to a different business or the true seller.
Physical location. Does the physical address match the address. Does the map search tool find the business on that site. Is signage the same? Is the address a vacant lot, warehouse, older dealership? Do the images in the map search match the cars being offered on the website?
“Today’s mapping imagery is so exact, it’s easy to verify the physical location,” Dixon says.
Dixon tells of one site that impersonated the online identity of a recently closed car dealership. Scammers took its name and address, but copied car listings from other dealers across the country, hoping naïve buyers would send money for a car the fake company didn’t even own. The site’s home page photo of a supposed car lot was actually a photo of cars parked at a shopping center.
Test a site’s legitimacy. To verify the legitimacy of a business go to bbb.org. States require car dealerships to be licensed, for taxes and registration purposes. If the website gives an address, call the department of motor vehicles in that state and check the license details.