While we would like to believe that we live in a world where we can trust one another, unfortunately there are scammers everywhere. The auto transport industry is not immune.
Dishonest scammers use the internet to target people trying to buy, sell, or transport their vehicles by copying information from legitimate auto shipping company websites, and creating a fake site of their own.
How Does an Auto Scam Work?
There are several different techniques that scammers use to take advantage of people wishing to buy, sell, or transport a vehicle. It’s helpful to be aware of them in order to protect yourself and make knowledgeable decisions.
The Up-Sell Scam
In this scam, the company seems very professional, polite, and respectful. They offer you a reasonable or even low price to transport your vehicle. You provide them with your credit card information, and they come to get your car. And then . . .you get a call telling you the price has changed. If you don’t pay, you don’t get your car.
The best way to avoid this scam is to shop around and do your research before you commit to any transport company. All vehicle transporters are required to be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They should have a Motor Carrier number (MC#) and USDOT number. Look for this information on their website, ask for this information if it is not provided, and/or check the FMCSA site and search for it on your own.
The Fake Buyer Phishing Scam
In this scam, the target is people selling cars. The scammer offers to buy the car and you agree on a price. They then send you a check that includes the payment for the vehicle, and extra money for shipping through a shipping company that they have approved. You don’t notice, of course, that this company actually leads to their own fake website.
You receive a request to make the payment to the shipping company, which you do as per your agreement. The payment goes through an untraceable method like Western Union or Moneygram.
A few days later, the original check has bounced, and the scammers have pocketed with your money.
One way to avoid this scam is to only use legitimate payment methods including: cash in person, credit card, PayPal, money order, cashier’s check, financial loans, or personal checks. If you accept a personal check, do not move forward until the check has fully cleared. Never pay through an untraceable or speedy method.
The Fake Seller Scam
In this scam, the “seller” offers to sell you a vehicle well below market value. They insist on payment in advance. They tell you that the shipper is holding the vehicle. They direct you to the “shipping company’s” website, which will hold your money in escrow until your vehicle is delivered. Of course, that website is their own. They take the money, and you never get your car.
You’ve heard the old saying, and it’s never truer than in car sales:
If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
There are many other scams involving car buying and selling, but did you know there are also scams involving shipping, specifically? Here are a couple to watch out for.
eBay Car Shipping Scams
eBay offers a Vehicle Purchase Protection program on certain vehicle transactions that take place on eBay.com. However, scammers will try to take advantage of this program and walk away with the money. From eBay’s website: “If a Craigslist or non-eBay seller 'promises' you the eBay protection plan, this is false and almost certainly a scam and you should walk away.” To stay safe, only communicate through site messaging platforms - and assume that you’ll be handling your own shipping!
The Bait and Switch Scam
Here’s the one that bothers us the most, because it’s unfortunately common amongst otherwise legit shipping companies. A transport company offers you a very low price to ship your car, and then tries to get more money when it comes to actually moving your car. Horror stories involving “hostage” situations, where the company will refuse to release the car unless they get an exorbitant amount of money are all over the internet.
The best way to protect yourself from this is to steer clear of the lowest price quotes, and instead look for a company who guarantees their prices. A reputable company like ShipLux will offer you price transparency: honest pricing with no hidden fees.
Here’s a handy chart of things to look out for in order to avoid any of these scams.
Protect Yourself From Shipping Scams With ShipLux
Buying, selling, or moving a vehicle can be stressful. It’s worth it to do your research before you make any agreements or sign any contract. Compare companies and ask questions. If you stay alert and take the time to do the research, the scammers will not achieve their goal. If you do find yourself the unfortunate victim of a scam, be sure to report it to the Federal Trade Commission, which also provides tips to help you get your money back.
At ShipLux, we pride ourselves in honest pricing. That’s why we offer price transparency. This means that we’ll do the extra legwork during the free price quote stage to find out every detail of your shipment that will have an effect on price. That way, the price we quote you? That’s the price you’ll pay. Guaranteed.
So when you’ve found that perfect car at a great deal and you’re ready to ship - contact ShipLux for a 100% transparent price quote.