Thinking of Buying a Car Online? Don’t Get Ripped Off!
Learn To Recognize The Signs You May Be Dealing With a Scam
More and more consumers are going online to purchase vehicles, especially those looking for a particular model or one with specific options.
Darren Fleming of Saint John New Brunswick is one such consumer. Searching for his dream car on AutoTRADER, he came across this great deal for a vintage 1977 Porsche 911 Targa.
Darren contacted the seller. “He claimed he’d retired and moved to Germany and he’d hired a German company, ODLE Speditionsges, to sell the car which was stored in Regina.” The purchase funds ($21,930) were to be sent via wire transfer to ODLE who would hold the money “in escrow” and ship the Porsche to Darren in Saint John.
Darren would then have five days to inspect the car. If he didn’t like it — he’d get a full refund and the seller would eat the shipping costs.
Darren fell in love with the car and the deal. He felt the promise of his money being held in escrow provided a measure of safety and the professionalism of the ODLE website gave him comfort that he was dealing with a legitimate company — that was until he read the fraud alert issued by OMVIC, Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator, which AutoTRADER graciously posts on all private ads.
Immediately after reading the OMVIC news release alarm bells went off. “I was ready to send the money — that warning saved me from getting ripped off.”
What Darren had encountered was just one of the latest versions of ongoing internet frauds operated by international organized crime rings. According to Terry O’Keefe, Director of Communications forOMVIC, “These scams are sophisticated.
They lure potential victims with desirable vehicles usually priced below market value; but there’s always a reason why you can’t actually go and see the vehicle in person — the seller has moved and left it in storage or it’s at a dealership in the US that is too distant to easily visit.
The reality is, despite the guarantees, professional websites and online testimonials, the seller and car are usually fictitious”.
Shortly after Darren contacted OMVIC, ODLE’s website disappeared.
Darren hopes publicizing his narrow escape will help educate others. “I’m a fairly savvy consumer, but these guys were good — they had all the right answers, an impressive online presence and they had the car of my dreams — it was a combination that nearly cost me”.
So how do you protect yourself when shopping online for a vehicle? How can you tell if the seller is legitimate? According to OMVIC there are some telltale signs you may be dealing with a scam:
- The ad is posted locally but the vehicle is located a long distance away
- There are excuses why an inspection of the vehicle isn’t possible (e.g. located in a secure compound/military base/etc.)
- The seller agrees to ship the vehicle to the buyer with a money back guarantee
- Pictures — don’t reflect the season (leaves on trees/snow/etc.) or locale (palm trees in Canada? What licence plates are on vehicle — if none, why not?)
- Phone number is faulty or goes straight to voicemail
- A specific photo requested by the buyer cannot be provided
Finally, any consumer considering buying a vehicle in another state or province, whether from a dealer or private seller, should consider the following:
- Beware of a price that is considerably lower than the average market price. If a price seems too good to be true — that’s a warning, not an opportunity
- Travel to see the vehicle (don’t rely on pictures or a convincing website) or hire a local appraiser or mechanic to inspect the vehicle. They can ensure the vehicle actually exists and the seller is who they claim to be
- Check with state or provincial regulators/ authorities to ensure dealers are licensed
- Don’t wire money or provide a credit card number without first doing all homework
- Don’t do it — consider that the savings are probably not worth the gamble, particularly in light of the rapid proliferation of these scams
Only when consumers buy from an OMVIC-Registered Dealer are they protected by Ontario’s consumer protection laws and have access to the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund.
To learn more about how to protect yourself when buying a vehicle visit omvic.ca