CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Mentor couple shelled out thousands and never got the car they paid for online.
Now, our partners at the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad are warning others, saying the couple is only one of many to fall into a similar trap.
John and Laura Roberts wanted to buy a Porsche they saw posted on Cars.com.
“I thought Cars.com was pretty reputable, and they have a big fraud department. We’d saved up for a long time,” John said. “I’d wanted one since I was little.”
John says the website quickly connected him with the seller.
“It was his dad’s car and his dad passed away,” he said.
The car was supposedly in Minneapolis. John said the seller told him he was working abroad.
“He said he was stuck over there because of COVID,” John said.
John told 19 Investigates that he looked into the man’s supposed employer, and it did have business overseas.
He checked out the companies the seller wanted to use to ship the car and process the transaction and when they seemed legit. So, he moved forward-, wiring 25 thousand dollars for the car to be delivered at the end of May.
“A few days before that, I couldn’t get a hold of them,” John said.
The Mentor couple again searched the companies involved.
In the time since John had sent his payment, he found several others had posted about being scammed by the same people.
“I thought I did everything right by googling everyone’s name, and I matched up the VIN number on a website, and it’s legit,” John said.
Sue McConnell’s with the Cleveland Better Business Bureau said, “What they are posting is a picture of a car they lifted from another website.”
McConnell says a good deal and a sad story are red flags you need to be wary of.
“Any place where an individual can post a vehicle for sale those are how the scam starts,” she said.
She said as more people are shopping online due to the pandemic, complaints about this type of scam have reached an all-time high this year.
The BBB projecting that by the end of the year Americans will have lost at least 1.1 million dollars, up from 800 thousand in 2019.
“Most of the time, these scams cost people a lot of money,” she said.
The Roberts thought they did. Miraculously, between the Mentor Police detective on their case and their bank, the funds were recovered.
“It had been months, we didn’t think we were going to get it back,” they said.
The couple is now heading the BBB’s warning though and trying to get it out there to others in the market for a new means of transportation.
“It happens with RV’s ATVs motorcycles, even farm equipment,” McConnell said.
“I’m not going to buy anything that I cannot test drive,” John said.
We reached out to Cars.com about the couple’s experience with their site.
The company sent us the following statement:
“Cars.com does not own, buy, or sell the vehicles listed on our site, and we are not involved in transactions, including financial, between buyers and sellers.
Cars.com successfully connects millions of car shoppers and sellers every day. Of the more than two million vehicles listed on our site, the vast majority are from trusted dealerships across the country and a small fraction, less than 1%, are from private sellers. While fraud, such as the incident with Mr. Roberts, is rare, we take fraudulent reports very seriously. When alerted to potentially fraudulent activity, we immediately remove the listing and report it to the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance. We also advise buyers to file a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center – this is the same advice we provided to Mr. Roberts. When requested, we fully cooperate with law enforcement investigations, and, at this time, we have not been contacted by law enforcement about this particular case. In addition, we provide a host of resources to educate consumers before engaging in online shopping and provide digital tools to promote safe shopping practices on our Fraud Awareness page, including:
- Inspecting the vehicle before purchasing
- Using caution when a buyer requests payment online before seeing the car in person
- Avoiding listings that are too good to be true
- Learning about the history of the vehicle