Fake vehicle history report sites snare online car shoppers into giving up personal information

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Jeff Ostroff of CarBuyingTips.com has made it his life's work to protect you from car buying and selling scams.

The latest one he's been tracking involves the "buyer" sending you a link to run a vehicle history report on your car, but they send you to a site that is only days old, and is not a secure https site. It appears the sites are only there to steal your credit card number.

Ostroff said once you list something of value, like a car for sale, on sites like Craigslist, you become a magnet for scammers.

He said fake vehicle history report sites are a way for con artists to steal your credit card number.

The biggest red flag is that the site is non-secure and not a trusted name like CARFAX or AutoCheck.com.

"Many folks are unaware of the safety features of the Internet and web sites and would easily be suckered in by this scammer's very professional looking web site, but look at the screen shot of his site," Ostroff said. "We want to point out that the scammer's web site is not secure, there is no telltale 'https' at the beginning of the address, where the 's' would indicate a secure and encrypted site."

"Scammers don't waste time setting up legitimate merchant accounts which would require security and encryption and leave electronic trails to their bank accounts," Ostroff explained on his website. "Instead they install a simple form on their fake vehicle history report site that simply emails them your credit card number that you entered.There you have it, the core of their scam is a simple form on a simple web site page that collects your information that you enter, and emails it to them, and so they can immediately start using your credit card. This is the vortex of this scam, this is their goal from the first text message they send you, to get you to their form to enter your credit card number. After that you'll never hear from them again, they often dump the email account they used, or the online account to generate the phony text messages they sent you."

On its website, Craiglist.org has these tips on avoiding scams:

Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99 percent of scam attempts.

  • Do not extend payment to anyone you have not met in person.
  • Beware offers involving shipping - deal with locals you can meet in person.
  • Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) - anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
  • Don't accept cashier/certified checks or money orders - banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a "guarantee".
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, PayPal account, etc).
  • Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing "deal" may not exist.
  • Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.

"Remember this important point: you are selling something online; money should be flowing to you, not away from you," Ostroff said. "A real buyer does not send you to a site to spend money; a real buyer comes to you to spend money. Know the difference, and don't ever get misdirected into anything involving you sending out money. You better catch yourself and ask 'Why am I sending them money, they should be sending me money?'"

Click here to read Ostroff's full post.

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"Used car sales are about triple what new cars are," Chris Basso of CARFAX said. "When people are shopping for a used car a lot of them tend to fall in love with it. They shop with their heart and not with their head, and when you do that you can fall victim to buying a rebuilt wreck or a car that has major problems. It is really buyer beware.It is up to you to figure out what you are buying before you lay down your hard earned money."

He said know what you are buying and who you are buying from.

  • RESEARCH THE DEALER: "You are want to make sure you are buying from someone reputable that's going to tell you about any problems with the car ahead of time," explained Basso.
  • TEST DRIVE: Take the car through a thorough test drive on city streets and the highway
  • VEHICLE HISTORY REPORT: Get a vehicle history report, such as a CARFAX report, and look for any information that may raise a red flag.
  • MECAHNIC'S INSPECTION: Have a mechanic inspect the car because their trained eye could spot problems that are not as obvious to the average consumer. "In my opinion, there is really nothing better than hiring an independent mechanic or motor vehicle inspector to go and actually take a physical look at the car," said consumer protection attorney Dana Manner. "(It's) saving you from investing a lot of money in a car that may be practically worthless," he said.
  • TITLE SEARCH: (VIDEO) Attorney Dana Manner: Requesting title search, identifying red flags http://www.local10.com/news/attorney-dana-manner-on-carfax-reports/32209146
  • CHECK FOR OPEN RECALLS: You can also run the car's vehicle identification number to check for open recalls. There's no law prohibiting car dealers from selling recalled used cars to consumers. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is looking to change that. He wants dealerships to be required to fix a recall on a used car just as they are required to do for new car purchases. Nelson has tried to make this happen before but the legislative amendment was defeated earlier this year. "We know that there was more than 300,000 used cars bought and sold here in Florida with an unfixed recall last year," explained Basso. 

    Click here for a vehicle information check.

    Florida DHSMV: Title History

    Florida DHSMV: Check dealer complaint history

    BBB Southeast Florida & The Caribbean: Check dealer complaint history

    FTC: Buying a used car

    How to protect yourself: Buying a used car

    Click here for AG's Office Link to Lemon Law.

    Click here for the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Complaint Form.