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The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch
  • BBB Warns of Fake Auto Dealer Websites

  • The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota(BBB) is urging consumers considering an online car purchase

    to be extra cautious following three recent incidents involving bogus auto dealer websites, each claiming to be located in

    North Dakota.
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  • The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota(BBB) is urging consumers considering an online car purchase
    to be extra cautious following three recent incidents involving bogus auto dealer websites, each claiming to be located in
    North Dakota. This scheme  was first brought to light by the BBB in our area in late 2011 – when another bogus online
    entity claimed to be operating an auto dealership in Southern Minnesota – and it appears to be spreading.
     
    “Buying a car online calls for a considerable amount of due diligence,” said Steve Farr, Auto Industry
    Liaison for the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “But even as consumers are doing their homework
    on a particular vehicle, they should research whether the ‘dealer’ itself is what it seems -- particularly
    when purchasing from an unfamiliar dealership in another part of the country.”
     
    In the three most recent cases investigated by the BBB, the ‘hook’ used to entice customers was similar –
    authentic-looking used auto dealer websites featuring high-end luxury cars such as Ferraris and Bentleys,
    often priced thousands of dollars below typical book value. Each site claimed a physical address in North
    Dakota, and provided one or more North Dakota phone numbers for people to contact.
     
    Last October, a Connecticut consumer alerted the BBB to a website purporting to be ‘Wieser Autos’,
    on 7th St S in Fargo (this is not to be confused with Wieser Auto Sales, a legitimate used car dealer in
    Wahpeton, ND). The BBB’s investigation revealed that no such dealer was licensed in North Dakota,
    and that many of the website’s auto listings were lifted directly from online inventories of legitimate
    car dealers around the country. The Fargo address the phony company claimed actually belonged to an
    unsuspecting business not connected with the shady website.
     
    The BBB immediately contacted the web provider hosting the bogus website, reporting its findings and
    urging the provider to suspend the site. The website was taken down within a few days, although the BBB
    subsequently learned of a victim in California who sometime in the weeks prior had wired away over
    $23,000 to scammers for a truck he never received.
     
    In November, the BBB received a complaint from an Illinois consumer about a website claiming to
    be ‘Golden Motor Group’ on Morrison Ave in Bismarck. The BBB once again determined that listed
    Page 2 of 2 - vehicles actually belonged to other, legitimate dealerships, and that the address listed was a rented storage
    locker. The BBB was again able to have that website shut down. Unfortunately, the consumer who
    reported the scam had already wired away $32,000 for a sports car that was never delivered.
     
    The most recent example of this scam came in February, when a consumer in Hawaii contacted the BBB
    about a website purporting to represent ‘Nationwide Motor Center,’ with an address on North 4th St in
    Grand Forks. Once again, the BBB was able to establish that the dealership and its inventory were non-
    existent, and the web provider quickly opted to shut down the site when presented with these findings.
     
    One new ‘twist’ in the Grand Forks case was that the consumer first encountered ‘Nationwide Motor
    Center’ through a listing on Cars.com, a legitimate auto advertising and research site. A contact claiming
    to be a private individual indicated she was consigning her truck due to ‘financial hardship,’ and urged the
    consumer to contact ‘Nationwide’ about the purchase. Thankfully, the consumer’s instincts told him to
    cut off communication with the ‘consignor,’ and he alerted the BBB.

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