Warning: Scammers Targeting Cash For Clunker Consumers

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USA (WOIO)- Now that the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) or Cash for Clunkers is back on track, Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to beware of scammers who are using it as a vehicle to get personal information.

The CARS program has proved to be extremely popular; according to the New York Times, it generated more than $920 million in rebates and more than 220,000 in auto sales. Car shoppers burned through the $1 billion that was initially set aside for the program and the Federal government had to quickly appropriate an additional $2 billion to keep the program going.

"Whenever a program is covered widely in the media and is popular with consumers, scammers don't waste time trying to use it to their advantage," said David Weiss, BBB president.

Even before the legislation passed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that Web sites were soliciting information like names, addresses and Social Security numbers in order to register people for the program. The BBB serving Louisville received reports from consumers who received phone calls with offers for help in filling out the paperwork to receive a voucher to participate in the program.

The BBB Serving Greater Cleveland found two Web sites that cleverly duplicated www.cars.gov <http://www.cars.gov> Web pages and made minor changes. Links were added that sent consumers to sites to get pricing for vehicles and estimates of trade-in values. Subsequent links requested personal information such as name, address, Social Security numbers, place of employment, etc.

BBB offers the following guidance to car buyers on the basics of the CARS program:

  • You do not need to register or receive a voucher to participate in the program; it is the responsibility of the dealership to complete all appropriate paperwork. There is no need to provide personal information in response to an e-mail or Web site promotion to qualify for the rebate.
  • Not all dealers are participating in the program. Participating dealers must register with the Federal government. A list of local participating dealers can be found at www.cars.gov <http://www.cars.gov>.
  • The program applies toward new cars and trucks that are either leased or purchased. Used car purchases do not qualify.
  • Not all new vehicles will qualify for receiving the credit. The new vehicle must be priced less than $45,000 and passenger vehicles must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 22 miles per gallon.
  • The amount of the credit is $3,500 or $4,500 depending upon the difference between the combined fuel economy of the vehicle that is traded in and that of the new vehicle. The credit will be applied toward the cost of the new car.
  • Trade-ins that qualify must be no older that 25 years and have a combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less at the time it was originally purchased. Visit www.fueleconomy.gov <http://www.fueleconomy.gov/> to learn the fuel economy of specific vehicles.
  • The trade-in vehicle must have been continuously insured, in accordance with State law, and registered in the same owner's name for the one-year period immediately prior to the trade-in.

Additional restrictions apply and BBB recommends consulting the official Web site for the CARS program at www.cars.gov <http://www.cars.gov/> for more information. Consumers can also call the CARS Hotline at (866)-CAR-7891 or TTY at (800)-424-9153.

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