The Better Business Bureau warns a vehicle sales scam in Missouri and Nebraska may now have popped up in North Dakota and possibly Minnesota. B-B-B spokesman Dan Hendrickson says beware of ads on craigslist and in Autotrader and other free publications, particularly if the seller suggests a third-party handle the transaction. He says people are “seeing ads for cars, trucks, R-Vs, even boats at too-good-to-be-true prices…. What they’re finding out, of course, is the ads are not legitimate and any money they send away they will lose and they will not receive anything in return.”
Hendrickson adds, “Usually what happens is the bad guys will say, well, I went through a divorce here, I’m just trying to get rid of some stuff or get some money in the bank, or I’ve been deployed, this kind of thing. And so they’re trying to make it seem like, hey, you’re doing me a favor here and helping me out.”
People who suspect such a scam should contact local law enforcement and the Better Business Bureau.
More in the BBB’s news release:
Burnsville, Minnesota – June 21, 2018 – Better Business Bureau® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning consumers shopping for vehicles on the internet to be on alert if the seller suggests using a third party to handle the transaction. Based on information provided by BBB St. Louis and a concerned area business owner, the local BBB is now aware of two suspect entities with websites claiming physical addresses in North Dakota, both of which are believed to be involved in a nationwide scheme.
Since late March, consumers contacting BBB St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha have reported finding cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, boats, jet skis, semi-trucks and farm equipment listed for sale at too-good-to-be-true prices ranging from $3,200 to $15,000, primarily on local craigslist pages, Autotrader and local (free) print publications. Consumers that have gone ahead and completed transactions with sellers in these situations say they did not receive the vehicles nor a refund of their money.
“We knew it would only be a matter of time before this scheme started targeting consumers in our region,” said Susan Adams Loyd, President and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “It’s vitally important to be on the lookout for the warning signs of this type of fraud.”
The suspect entities claiming address in North Dakota are Yellow Shippers (https://yellow-shippers.com/), which lists an address in Fargo, and Bismarck Shippers (https://www.bismarck-shippers.com/) which purports to operate out of Bismarck. Based on a BBB review of their websites and reports received from the public and other BBBs, it’s unlikely these entities have any presence in North Dakota other than the addresses listed on the websites. These websites look similar and sometimes share the same address or phone number. BBB site visits and inquiries confirm the business addresses listed on the websites are for other unrelated businesses or for locations that do not exist.
The sellers tell the buyers they are using a shipper to handle escrow and transportation of the vehicle to the potential buyer. BBB believes the sellers and shippers are both fraudulent.
The buyer contacts the seller, who shares a story via email about why they are selling the item. The “seller” tells the buyer that the vehicle and paperwork are being stored at the shipper’s location (Fargo, St. Louis, Kansas City, or Omaha) where they recently moved to be with family. An alternate story involves the seller being deployed. Buyers are instructed to wire money to the shipper’s bank. They are told they will have five days to evaluate the vehicle and if they aren’t satisfied, the vehicle can be returned to the shipper, with all shipping fees paid by the seller.
Potential buyers are given the name of a financial representative and are asked to complete a bank-to-bank wire transfer. Law enforcement authorities believe the financial representatives are real people who may or may not know they are being used by the scammers to move the money.
Once the wire transfer is complete, it is very difficult to recoup money. BBB urges consumers who believe they may be victims of the scam to contact their bank immediately to report the issue and seek any assistance that their bank may be able to provide.
Additionally, BBB encourages consumers who have lost money in this scam to file a complaint with BBB and a report with local law enforcement. Consumers who have encountered this scheme, but not lost money to it may file a report through BBB Scam Tracker.
To read BBB of St. Louis’s full alert, visit https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/17905-vehicle-shippers-springing-up-on-internet-may-be-scams-bbb-warns.