Warning - fake cars

Turner's Tips has received this press release February 11th 2010 from Bob Hamilton of AMVIC. We reprint the warning in its entirety herewith.

Beware of Fake Cars

There are unscrupulous individuals who make a living preying on unsuspecting consumers who are looking for a great deal. I have recently had two incidents where I was alarmed by what someone was doing. In speaking to many people, this seems to be a common occurrence.

I restored a 67 Mercedes 200D. I belong to a group on the internet that shares information about old Mercedes Benz vehicles. In late 2009, someone from the group pointed out an eBay listing for a 65 Mercedes 220SE - I went and looked at it and clicked on "Watch this item" to see what it would get sold for. I didn't bid on the car. The auction ended and many bids were withdrawn so something seemed a bit funny.

Then things got interesting. I got an email from the individual who had listed the car. He told me that the successful bidder had backed out and he now just wanted to get rid of the car. He offered it to me for $8000 and he was going to pay for having it shipped to me. He said that the vehicle had belonged to his son but that he had died in a car accident and he just wanted to sell the car to get rid of the reminder of his son. He was in the accident as well and was in rehabilitation in Great Falls, Montana. The car was located near Dallas, Texas. I responded back with a question about whether he still had the original radio for the car and asked if he could just get it to Great Falls - that I could get it from there. He replied that he would prefer shipping it to me. I also asked for the VIN for the car and he did not provide that to me. I then did some google searching and found several listings for similar cars - all priced at over $30,000. Then, I found the exact same pictures as what he had used in his eBay listing at a business in New England. I realized that he had created a "fake" car and listing. I confronted him with this information and never heard from him again. I contacted eBay to let them know. I also contacted the business who actually had the car.

Closer to home, we've had two incidents where sellers have "created" a vehicle using someone else's pictures and then tried to sell the vehicle by listing it at an online advertising service. One had a story about the vehicle being her ex husbands and she got it in the divorce settlement and she just wanted to get rid of it so that it wouldn't remind her of him. So she was selling it cheap. She had two different vehicles listed, both with the same story, but with different names. Neither vehicle existed.

What are the lessons to be learned?

1. Be very careful when purchasing vehicles using any service where you don't actually see the vehicle. The best rule: Don't do it! There are lots of vehicles near you for sale that you can actually see.

2. Use Vehicle information reports - CarProof and CarFax to find out as much as you can about any used vehicle.

3. Get an independent inspection done on the vehicle. If you decide that you have to have a vehicle that is located somewhere where you can't get to see it, have someone independent go and look at the vehicle. Know what it is that you are buying.

4. There are people out there that are trying to take advantage of people by making things look "too good to be true". Don't fall for their stories. If it looks to be "too good to be true" it probably is!

5. Dealers in Alberta are required to be licensed by the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC). If you buy from a licensed dealer there is a higher standard by which they have to abide. AMVIC fields complaints from consumers. When the vehicle is purchased from a licensed dealer AMVIC can help in resolving problems. When the vehicle is purchased independently AMVIC cannot help.

6. Be very careful when buying vehicles in the U.S.A. You may save a few dollars on the initial purchase price. However, when you go to resell the vehicle, you will likely lose the saving. U.S. vehicles sell for a lower price than Canadian vehicles.

AMVIC is responsible for administering and enforcing motor vehicle industry regulations under Alberta's Fair Trading Act. AMVIC website