The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota is advising consumers to watch out for fraudulent online vehicle dealers and shippers.
Three fraudulent “businesses” popped up on BBB’s radar this month after consumers submitted more than 200 inquiries combined about Duluth Motors Transport, Tralaway International and Auto Recovery Brokers. These fake auto dealer and shipper websites defraud consumers of thousands of dollars at a time.
The ruse starts with a car, RV or other vehicle listed for an improbably low price on a website like Craigslist or Oodle. Often the ad is posted across the country from where the vehicle is allegedly located, meaning buyers can’t see the vehicle in person.
The scammer emails an invoice to the consumer and includes payment instructions that generally involve bank routing information or wire transfer instructions. Once the money is wired, the scammer cuts off communication and the consumer walks away empty-handed.
The fake vehicle shipping services convince buyers to wire money for vehicles they will never receive.
In March, KX News told you about a phony used and seized vehicles website, www.usv-preloved.com, purporting to be located in Mandan. Such a business did not exist. The website disappeared after the KX story ran, but re-appeared several weeks later in a similar form but with a different domain name, claiming to be located in Grand Forks.
Duluth Motors Transport claims to be in Duluth, Minn., but research revealed its listed address is an empty warehouse. Auto Recovery Brokers claims to be in Grand Forks, ND, but there is no licensed auto dealer by that name in the entire state. Neither entity nor Tralaway International has a U.S. Department of Transportation motor carrier number, which is required by law.
BBB is aware of at least one consumer who was scammed out of more than $17,000 by Duluth Motors Transport. The consumer said the most valuable lesson he learned out of his experience is never to wire transfer money for a large purchase.
“Bank wiring is not the safest way to do a transaction,” he said. “If you’re doing a transaction, you should insist on seeing something. I taught myself a big lesson.”
Before making a purchase, search the business on the BBB’s Scam Tracker by visiting www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us or on www.bbb.org to view its rating, read customer reviews, and check whether the profile has been flagged as risky by the BBB.
Some additional tips:
- Do everything in your power to avoid wiring money for an online vehicle purchase, especially if you can’t view and inspect the vehicle in person first.
- Watch for red flags like improbably low prices on vehicles.
- Make sure the dealer is licensed to sell cars and/or other motor vehicles. In Minnesota, auto dealers are licensed through the Department of Motor Vehicles; in North Dakota, through the Department of Transportation.
- Look up the dealer on www.bbb.org to make sure their profile hasn’t been flagged with concerns and to read customer reviews.