CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — Online scammers are looking for an easy buck and people in a rush to buy often are the perfect target.
In May we did see a South Texas man lose about $8,000 to a vehicle purchase, he was trying to buy a bobcat tractor online, that was a scam,” said Jason Meza with the Better Business Bureau.
Meza says scammers will try to lure in victims by offering low prices on big ticket items like cars.
“And they're willing to give a great discount or they’re offering sad story such as they're deployed or I’m recently divorced I need to get rid of the car quickly,” said Meza.
And don't assume you're safe just because you're on a reliable car buying site like eBay motors or AutoTrader. Scammers can still take your money if they manage to take the conversation out of the secured online platform.
“Then they try to move that conversation to a private email or to a bogus website that’s usually a first step that you're about to follow a scammer into their territory,” said Meza.
The best thing you can do to ensure you're not being scammed is ask tons of questions.
“Ask for the VIN number and the vehicle identification number,” said Meza. “Ask for a car fax and a vehicle history report.
“Also pay with a credit card that's the best thing because credit cards have built in fraud protection.”
Tell-tale signs that a car ad might be fake is if it has tons of grammatical errors or a lack of communication from the seller.
A major red flag is a seller who asks you to directly wire transfer them money, or if they ask to get paid with gift cards
“Unfortunately, gift cards and wire transfers are no win situations for the consumer, once the money goes they're extremely hard to trace,” said Meza. “It involves police reports, security footage, and months of back and forth with the wire transfer service.”
Meza says there's a zero to five percent chance you'll see your money again if you pay through those means.
And if you suspect you're being scammed, always check with the company you're buying through, they can usually verify an invoice or transaction number.