BBB Warns of Fake Online Auto Dealers| 3/21/2013
The BBB says the website they investigated has been taken down, but offer the following suggestions for buying a car online:
- If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In each example of this scheme, cars were advertised at prices substantially below book value for comparable vehicles. Use online resources such as Kelley Blue Book to get a sense of how much you might realistically expect to pay for a used car.
- Research the dealer, just as surely as you’d research the car. Start by visiting BBB.org, to verify that the business has a listing and complete contact information. Ensure that the business is licensed as an auto dealer in the state. In North Dakota, dealer licensing is administered through the Department of Transportation. In Minnesota, the Department of Public Safety handles dealer licensing, and maintains a ‘Dealer Lookup’ page on its website.
- Do a little Internet ‘detective work’. If the vehicle listing provides a VIN number, do a simple Google search to see if that same listing appears elsewhere on the web. If you see it listed in the inventory of another dealership elsewhere in the country, you’ll know something is amiss.
- Watch for geographic and other visual inconsistencies. Many of the vehicle photos on the three websites referenced above clearly showed palm trees and mountain ranges in the background, something not typically seen if a vehicle is photographed and available for sale in North Dakota. Other photos were clearly stock images, and not actual vehicle photos.
- If a purported dealer attempts to rush you into sending money to ‘hold’ a car or hesitates when you ask if you can see or inspect the vehicle, move on. The BBB urges consumers not to send money for an online vehicle purchase without having an opportunity to see the vehicle first, or to have it inspected by a third-party inspector of your choosing.