Friday, May 17, 2024

BBB Warns of Rising Virtual Vehicle Vendor Scams in 2023

by BIZ Magazine

In a recent investigation, the Better Business Bureau (BBB®) has uncovered a concerning trend: reports of virtual vehicle vendor scams surged in 2023, targeting high-end classic car buyers and exploiting vehicle history reports to steal money and personal information.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, scammers have capitalized on the online marketplace, listing non-existent vehicles and preying on unsuspecting buyers. However, recent reports indicate a shift towards more sophisticated tactics, with fraudsters creating fake websites mirroring those of legitimate sellers. These websites use stolen photos, contact information, and vehicle identification numbers (VIN) to deceive consumers.

The BBB’s comprehensive report, titled “Virtual Vehicle Vendor Scams and Related Fraud Persist Post-Pandemic,” delves into the patterns of these scams, assesses the financial losses incurred, and draws insights from victims to better educate the public and prevent future fraud.

Key findings from the investigation include:

  • Reports of online vehicle vendor scams to BBB Scam Tracker declined in 2022 but spiked to new highs in 2023.
  • Individuals aged 45 and older accounted for over three-quarters of all reports on virtual vehicle vendor scams.
  • Scammers are increasingly relying on fake websites, often stealing content from legitimate sellers to create convincing replicas.
  • Classic car buyers were particularly targeted with enticingly low prices and promises of nationwide delivery.
  • Instances of fake vehicle history reports have risen over the past three years, with consumers reporting both monetary losses and personal data theft.

Statistics compiled from 2021 to 2023 reveal alarming figures:

  • Close to 700 reports on fraudulent vehicle sales, escrow scams, and fake vehicle reports were filed with BBB Scam Tracker.
  • The median loss in fraudulent vehicle sale and escrow scams amounted to $12,600.
  • Victims of fake vehicle report scams reported a median loss of $45.

Despite ongoing efforts to combat these scams since 2020, scammers continue to evolve their tactics, resulting in significant financial losses for victims.

To help consumers protect themselves when buying cars online, BBB offers the following tips:

  • Refrain from purchasing vehicle reports for interested buyers.
  • Whenever possible, inspect the vehicle in person or send a trusted representative.
  • Exercise caution when encountering prices that seem too good to be true.
  • Opt for vehicle pick-up rather than delivery to minimize risk.
  • Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics and avoid making hasty decisions.
  • Use only approved Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) lookup websites.

For more information on checking out a business, reporting a scam, or learning about various scams, consumers can visit BBB.org, BBB Scam TrackerSM, or bbb.org/scamstudies.

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