BBB Warns Online Car Shoppers to Be Wary of Fraudulent Sales

  In this fraud, scammers attempt to sell vehicles they do not own. They make the offers attention grabbing and attractive by advertising vehicles at prices below book value.  Often the reason for the supposed-bargain price is the need to sell the vehicle because of a quick move for work or military deployment.


Perpetrators may claim they are short on time, thus unable to meet the consumer in person or allow time for vehicle inspection. To make the deal appear legitimate, the scammer instructs the victim to send full or partial payment to a third-party agent via a wire transfer payment service and to fax the payment receipt to the seller as proof of payment. The scammer pockets the payment but does not deliver the vehicle.


„Scammers are getting better at making their schemes look legitimate,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Chicago and northern Illinois. „It’s important to be aware of some red flags that indicate you may be dealing with a con artist.”


The BBB warns automotive shoppers to exercise due diligence before engaging in transactions to purchase vehicles advertised online. In particular, shoppers should be cautious of the following:


Sellers who push for speedy completion of the transaction and request payments via quick wire transfer payment systems.

Sellers who refuse to meet in person, or refuse to allow the buyer to physically inspect the vehicle before the purchase.

Transactions in which the seller and vehicle are in different locations, the seller may claim to have been transferred for work reasons, deployed by the military, or moved because of a family circumstance, and could not take the vehicle with them.

Vehicles advertised at well below their market value. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.


If you have witnessed this behavior or fallen victim to this type of scam, please file a complaint at and visit our new scam source section at




As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reviews on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.