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Online scammers rip off bargain hunters

Automotive News reports on fake used car Web sites.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus warns that scammers are posing as legitimate auto sales outlets on phony Web sites to dupe car shoppers into sending them money.

Council spokeswoman Alison Southwick says reports from regional offices indicate that about a dozen companies in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas have reported that their names have been used on bogus Web sites. She says she is familiar with about half of those reports, and all involved used-car stores.

The sites, which look legitimate, offer deals on repossessed vehicles at prices well below market value, Southwick says. The sites use the name, address, and contact information of the real dealership. According to the council, buyers are instructed to wire a deposit to an individual rather than to a company because it helps the company cut its tax bill.

Southwick says the council does not know how many consumers have lost money but has heard that deposits of up to $5,000 were sent to the thieves.

America Auto Sales, a used-car store in Memphis, Tenn., received more than 1,000 phone calls from consumers across the country who shopped for a vehicle on, a bogus site, Southwick says. The callers were led to believe the Web site was run by the Memphis store.

After paying the deposit, some victims called real dealerships to arrange the delivery of their nonexistent vehicles, and some showed up in person to pick them up.

Southwick says the fraudulent sites disappear after a few days and then reappear with a new site address, using another legitimate dealership's information

(Source: Automotive News)