Let the buyer beware, is no more appropriate than when you’re buying something expensive online.
An Illinois man wouldn’t argue with that supposition after he wired $35,000 for a 1962 Corvette he’s wanted his entire life, only to discover too late that the dealer to which he sent the money doesn’t even exist! He’s out $35k now.
The victim wired the money to Carsten Autos at 333 Washington Ave. in Minneapolis, Minn., but the only problem is that there is no such dealership.
The Better Business Bureau expects such scams to thrive in the coming years because it’s so easy for crooks to set up what looks like a valid website. Throw in a gullible customer who’s excited about getting his dream car, and you have the all the makings of an easy scam.
Fortunately, the BBB has been able to shut down the bogus sites, but more are expected to pop up in their place.
In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center issued a warning about such online auto scams in 2011 and estimated that between 2008 and 2010, victims who were not embarrassed about reporting the swindling lost more than $44 million.
FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer cautions people “about making such a significant purchase online.”
But despite the FBI’s warning, the scams continue to appear regularly. In late 2011, the BBB started investigating scams in Minnesota, with a non-existent company claiming to be running a dealership in southern Minnesota. Such fake dealerships then spread to two purported stores in North Dakota, and earlier this year, two more came online in Minnesota.
A BBB investigator named Steve Farr says that he talked to the North Dakota Department of Transportation about the scams and was told the agency couldn’t really do anything because the scammers were in cyberspace.
“When you put up a website, you sort of exist in this regulatory no man’s land,” Farr said. “It’s kind of the perfect place to be.” The best advice is to use common sense when making a large purchase online. Deal with a reputable dealer that you know actually exists, and don’t wire money to a company that you don’t really know much about.