A second Johnston County resident has come forward this week reporting to be a victim of a widespread internet auto scam.
In the latest case a 59 year-old Clayton resident reported that she was looking for a used car over the internet. She spotted a Honda Accord for sale on CraigsList for the bargain price of only $1,000, thousands of dollars below any similarly priced car. The buyer claimed he was divorced and had to sell the car quickly.
The victim contained the seller through email and agreed to pay for the car using eBay gift cards. She was then promised the car would soon be delivered. The car was never delivered and she soon realized she had been the victim of a scam.
On Tuesday, we first told you about a 38 year-old Smithfield woman who thought she was also getting a good deal on a Nissan SUV. She saw it listed for $1,000, way below the wholesale value. The buyer claimed he was in the military and was about to be deployed and needed to sell the car before leaving the country.
In both cases, the scam artists told the victims their money was safe because it involved eBay or eBay Buyer Protection. But neither transaction occurred through eBay and both victims lost their money.
Johnston County authorities are investigating both cases but say it is very unlikely the victims will get their money back.
Officers tell us the internet auto scammers have no mailing address, no telephone numbers, and for a made-up reason they always claim you can’t see the vehicle in person. The car is often very far away in a warehouse or shipping container. In some cases they claim they will ship the car to you for free for your inspection. Any type of third party escrow or bank account to keep your money safe for 5 to 10 days before deciding on the purchase is not legitimate.
According to FraudGuides.com here are some tips to help you identify suspicious buyers or sellers with online car scams:
- Cars are priced far below current market value.
- The seller claims to be in the military and is stationed or going overseas.
- The posting does not include a phone number.
- The seller will demand that you use an online escrow service of their choice.
- The person receiving the call is referred to as a “pickup agent.”
- Payment must be wired to or from another country. Western Union is often requested.
- The buyer or seller is very anxious to conclude the transaction.
Auto fraud now accounts for 12 percent of all online scams with the average consumer losing $3,700 when they fall for the scam.