Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Internet Car Scam
Everybody is looking for a good deal these days and crooks know it. They often try to rip you off, by reaching you through your e-mail account. Investigators say a scam that involves car sales and it's racking up a lot of victims. Investigative reporter, Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- College sophomore Warren Krupp was looking for a car, so he started searching the internet.
Warren Krupp, Internet Auto Shopper: "I think you can find stuff cheaper there."
And he did.
Warren Krupp: "This car they are trying to sell it for $12,000 below blue book value."
But, not only did many of the deals seem too good to be true, the sellers always seemed to be far away.
Warren Krupp: "They wanted me to send money to random locations and when I say random, I mean like Idaho, Alaska, London. I mean, like random places."
Warren says he couldn't get anybody to talk with him on the phone.
Warren Krupp: "They wouldn't talk to me directly. They only wanted to communicate through e-mails. It just seemed really fishy."
Warren didn't bite, but Janet Brandon did.
Janet Brandon, Auto Scam Victim: "They were asking $19,500."
She wired nearly $22,000 to an online seller, to buy a used Lexus for her mother.
Janet says she thought the deal was legit because the money was going to a third party, an online service that would hold the money in escrow.
Janet Brandon: "If I decided that something was wrong with the car, I could get a refund, get my money back."
But as Janet waited for the car to be delivered to her mom's home in Key Largo she realized, she had been taken.
Janet Brandon: "Six o'clock Monday night came, no person, no car."
Janet lives in Charlotte County on Florida's west coast. So, we went there to talk with the detective who investigated her case.
Detective A.J. Ursomanno says, Janet will never see her money again. Although she thought it was going to Washington, it went much farther than that.
Det. A.J. Ursomanno, Charlotte County Sheriff's Office: "The money was cashed somewhere in England."
Det. A.J. Ursomanno: "The loss was larger than normal. Generally our cases are a $1,000 to $2,000 range. Mostly the scammers are asking for deposits and not the full amount of the vehicle."
He says the scammers steal the names and logos of legitimate companies to trick victims.
Carmel Cafiero: "Real escrow companies will hold funds until all parties in a transaction are satisfied before they release the money. So, that gives purchasers confidence that they are protected, but these days on the internet you can't believe what you see."
Detective Ursomanno says your money is going straight into the pockets of the crooks, not a third party.
Det. A.J. Ursomanno: "With the internet, they have the ability now to completely mirror other sites, legitimate sites and they go through great lengths to actually make it look as legitimate as possible."
So, with all this effort to trick us it means online shoppers have to beware.
The National Consumer's League recommends never wire money, always try to deal locally. Do not do business with someone who will not meet you face to face. Never buy a car that you have not seen in real life.
And if a price is too good or if a seller won't send you a phone number, experts say put the brakes on the deal.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: