FARGO — The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota is warning the public about a scam that apparently uses the name of a former Fargo car dealership to defraud consumers across the country.
According to information provided by the BBB:
Consumers have reported to the BBB that they came across an ad for a vehicle on Craigslist and contacted the "seller," Superior Auto Sales, for more information.
After exchanging messages with Superior, the consumer receives an official-looking invoice asking for 20 percent down as a deposit on the vehicle.
If the buyer goes through with the payment, Superior disappears and the consumer never gets the vehicle.
Some odd things about the operation: the invoices are signed with the name of former President Barack Obama and the address of the business is the same as that of a car dealership by the same name that was formerly located in Fargo.
The BBB has also identified a website that features the same fraudulent listings, only it uses a business called "Preferred Auto Brokers" in Minot, N.D., though there is no Preferred Auto Brokers company currently operating in Minot, according to the BBB.
The BBB offers the following tips to help consumers identify fraudulent auto dealer sites:
- Watch for "red flags," like improbably low prices, or an insistence that you communicate with the “dealer” only by texts or email, not by phone.
- Make sure the dealer is licensed to sell cars and/or other motor vehicles. In Minnesota, auto dealers are licensed through the Department of Motor Vehicles; in North Dakota, through the Department of Transportation.
- BBB strongly urges consumers not to wire money for an online vehicle purchase if you can’t view and inspect the vehicle in person first or have a reputable third-party inspector do so for you.
- BBB encourages consumers who have lost money in this kind of scam to alert their bank immediately.
The BBB first became aware of the most recent scam in January, when consumers submitted BBB customer reviews and Scam Tracker reports about interactions with Superior Auto Sales.
Some consumers reported "close calls," while others said they had wired off $800 to $1,000 in deposit money for vehicles they never received, according to the BBB.
To file a complaint with the BBB, visit www.bbb.org, or phone 651-699-1111.