The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled an unprecedented shift to online shopping for consumer goods of all kinds, including vehicles. It's also bringing out the scams.

The Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says that many online platforms list cars, trucks, vans, and RVs for very low prices, with sellers offering to make third-party delivery arrangements if the buyer pays via escrow. In reality, neither the automobile nor the escrow company exists, which ends up leaving the buyer without their money or their vehicle.

If you thought that the pandemic's biggest scam, fake online puppy ads, was the only scam making its way around the country (and the Rockford area), the BBB's study shows that it's clearly not.

I was talking with Dennis Horton, Director of the Rockford Regional Office of the BBB, and he says that, according to a new BBB study, websites such as Craigslist are full of advertisements for low-price vehicles, with sellers often claiming that the reduced price is because of an upcoming military deployment overseas, a divorce, or the death of a family member to whom the vehicle belonged. Victims are directed to pay a supposedly independent third party, typically by wire transfer, to hold money in escrow and ship the vehicle. However, no vehicle is ever delivered.

BBB's Dennis Horton:

Buying a vehicle online from a reputable seller can be a safe and convenient way to shop during COVID-19, but as with any high-profile situation, scammers are finding ways to take advantage of unwitting buyers,” says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “Consumers should use extreme caution so as not to let a low price and a sad story lure them into paying for a vehicle that does not exist.

 

Here's a guy who nearly became a scam statistic: