BBB warning of online car sale scams

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 10:44 PM CDT
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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) - A north Texas man is out hundreds of dollars after trying to buy a truck he saw online, and the Better Business Bureau of North Texas says this kind of scam is happening more than we think.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that about $57 million dollars were lost over the course of three years in online car scams, and they anticipate people will lose millions more this year.

These scams are called ‘virtual vehicle vendor scams’, and the BBB said they are happening more often now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Especially because they (people) think it’s safer," said Spokeswoman Phylissia Clark. “You don’t have to walk around the lot, you don’t have to do the things that you would typically do when you buy a car.”

Clark said because of the COVID-19 pandemic and so many people are avoiding air travel, people are looking to buy used motor vehicles- like cars, boats and RVs.

She said they’re turning to places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or eBay.Clark said all of these websites are safe, if the transaction is legitimate. She said knowing the signs of a potential scam are crucial.

”The red flag, is that they will always give you some heart-wrenching story,” Clark said.

It happened to Army veteran Jesse Johnson, of Archer City Texas.

This is the truck Jesse Johnson thought he was buying, before realizing he was falling for an...
This is the truck Jesse Johnson thought he was buying, before realizing he was falling for an online vehicle scam.

“She (scammer) said she had a nice pickup truck for sale. It was a 2005 Dodge Super Cab, and she said it had been her husband’s, but he died” said Johnson.

Johnson said he was in the market for a pickup truck, so he joined a few groups he found on Facebook Marketplace.

He then received an email from a woman- claiming to be a widowed soldier, about to deploy.

“I identified with her situation- I sympathized with her," Johnson said. “I knew what it was like to deploy, to have to wrap up your business.”

Johnson said he and the woman exchanged phone numbers, and she quickly asked for payment to be sent to her through eBay gift cards.

Johnson said at the time, he had no idea he was falling for a scam.

”I had never done that before. I didn’t have an eBay account. I had never used eBay before. So, I wasn’t familiar with it- but that’s what made it sound more legit. She never asked for a credit card or asked for a bank account, so I figured if it’s through eBay, I won’t lose money that way," Johnson said.

Johnson is now out $2,400, and will most likely not get a refund.

The BBB reported that Sherman and Denison area had 50 to 60 cases of online car scams in 2020. They believe that number is relatively large, considering only about 10 percent of people actually report their experiences to the BBB.

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