Those sneaky Eastern European scammers are at it again. Half a dozen people from Germany, Russia, Romania and Latvia have been accused of bilking consumers out of more than $4 million in a bogus online car-selling scam, the LA Times reports.
Even though they never delivered one vehicle, the scheme managed to go on for more than three years, according to an indictment filed in Los Angeles. (See the best part about buying cars online.)
Authorities claim the fraudsters listed cars on popular sites like Edmunds.com, Craigslist and EBay Motors and funneled their ill-gotten gains into more than 100 bank accounts created with fake identities.
Unfortunately, this type of fraud isn’t anything new to the auto re-selling business.
“Because scammers essentially steal the identity and good name of real auto dealers, car shoppers will think that they’re buying a car from a reputable business,” Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said last year after hundreds of consumers were tricked into forking over thousands of dollars to a bogus car company. “The truth is, they’re being sold a bill of goods by a coordinated, agile and in all likelihood overseas outfit of scammers.”
Customers were directed to wire their deposits to an individual rather than the company itself, which claimed it “helps us avoid taxes legally.”
Of course, as soon as they pocketed the cash, the buyers never heard from the company again.
Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau on how to spot a dodgy seller:
The prices are too good to be true.
The dealer only communicates through chat or e-mail—never by phone.
The dealer only accepts payment by money wire transfer.