The FBI is warning consumers that criminals are posting fraudulent online classified advertisements offering vehicles for sale that are not, nor have ever been, in their possession.
“The fake advertisements usually include photos matching the description of the vehicle and a phone number or email address to contact the supposed seller,” the FBI said in a statement.
“Once contact is established, the criminal sends the intended buyer additional photos along with an explanation for the discounted price and the urgency of the transaction,” the FBI added.
Common reasons provided include that the seller is moving or being deployed by the military, the seller received the vehicle as part of a divorce settlement and that the vehicle belonged to a relative who has died.
The criminal makes the fraud appear legitimate by deceptively claiming partnership with a reputable company, such as eBay, and assuring that the transaction will occur through the third party’s buyer protection program, the FBI said.
“They may go so far as to send a fraudulent toll-free number that impersonates the third party. The buyer is told to purchase prepaid gift cards in the sale amount and to share the card codes with the criminal, who then notifies the buyer they will be receiving the vehicle in a number of days.”
After the transaction is complete, the criminal typically ignores all follow-up calls, text messages, or emails from the buyer or may demand additional payments, the FBI said.
“In the end, the vehicle is not delivered and the buyer is never able to recuperate their losses,” the bureau added.