Steering clear of vehicle history report scams

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The FTC has been hearing about a new scam targeting people who are selling their cars online. They’re getting calls or texts from people who claim to be interested in buying the car – but first want to see a car history report. They ask the seller to get the report from a specific website, where the seller needs to enter some information and pay about $20 by credit card for the report. The seller then sends it to the supposed buyer but never hears back. Weird, huh?

 

Well, it gets weirder. When the car sellers go to one of these websites, they’re automatically redirected to sites ending in ‘.vin’ – which seems like it might be related to your car’s vehicle identification number or VIN, right? Scammers hope you’ll think that, but no. In this case, .vin is a relatively new website “domain” – like .com or .org – that groups can apply to use. This domain was intended to be used for sites that relate to wine, since “vin” is the French word for wine, but others are not prevented from using it. So yes, that’s a clever take on .vin for cars, yes, but you still might want to think twice if anyone asks you to do car-related business on a site ending in .vin.

 

So, if you are selling a car online and someone asks you to get a car history report from a specific site, ask why and think twice. You may have no way of knowing who operates the site, especially if it’s one you’ve never heard of. It might be a ruse to get your personal information, including your credit card account number. It also could be a way for companies called “lead generators” to get information, which they sell to third parties for advertising and marketing purposes.

 

Your best bet: play it safe. Go to ftc.gov/usedcars for information on vehicle history reports, recall notices, and how to learn whether a car has been declared salvage. For example, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) operates vehiclehistory.gov, which lists NMVTIS-approved providers of vehicle history reports. Not all vehicle history reports are available through the NMVTIS website. Reports from other providers sometimes have additional information, like accident and repair history.

 

Whether you’re familiar with a company or not, it’s always helpful to see what other people are saying online. Simply enter the name of the company, and words like “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”

 

To get more information like this, sign up for the FTC's Consumer Information Updates.

Comments

Thanks. This was very informative.

Very helpful, incisive and clear.

Good info

Very useful

Thanks for this timely information as I am planning to buy a used car and this is very helpful. You provide a great service to us because the crooks never give up!

Also , although rare, I did get a report from one of the most trusted sites, and the car I was going to buy was listed as clean; no problems whatsoever.

That was good info for me as I was ready to buy. However, Im a very careful person and got the idea to call the Car Makers (Toyota) who were very obliging in telling me as much as they knew about this car. Including where I could get service history and where it was serviced. Again very happy to hear. However, as I mentioned, I then asked the agent, "are you SURE there is nothing on this car?" and he said: "no its clean." But then hesitated, said, 'wait a minute' and then said: "Oh I"M so sorry, this car is a write off! " I asked him how this information could have been missed. HE said , well there was one button on his screen he had forgotten to push. How? I dont know. We are all human I guess. I didn't buy the car. Whew!

Great to know - and remember...thanks for the info

Thanks, Very Helpful

I bought a used car from a dealer a year ago,my credit score was 783 no late cc payments for 11 uears.They lied and told me ally was the old gmac financing co.When I took delivery I investigated and found the kickback connection between ally and the dealer.I refinanced online with my banks online service at 4.44% instead of 10% that they had used,saving 5.56%.I searched carfax with the vin and found several cars with the exact vin in other states.Sounds like a double case of fraud.

You can report that to the FTC at www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

Very good news to know. Thanks.

I am getting calls from Becca at Honda. They have my dealership name, and are very interested in me "selling" my car to them. I have a new car. First thing I did was plug in the number I am receiving the calls from...not from the Honda dealership. Sent the manager the message, no "Beca's" working there.
We have to be careful all the time.

Really helpful, I just started to selling my car for the first time ever and I got dozens of these texts or emails about going to some random website. I don't respond at all.

What about the usefulness of reporting the phone number of the scammer on the car history reports? I checked the one I got today and it was from Santa Monica, CA, was suggesting the phony website for the car history. Will reporting those calls make any difference in slowing down or stopping that type of scam?

What this article describes just happened to me this morning! From craigslist I got "ryan" who seems like an interested buyer, but says please contact my actual email, not via craigslist mail bc "craigslist isn't giving me all my messages." In hindsight, a red flag but I fell for it. In seconds "ryan" emailed a link to a vin site, which thankfully I didn't use. Thanks for article.

This happened to me and others in my city. The scam jumps to another level if you are as dumb as me and pay for the report. The next step is trying to get you to co-sign a loan or find someone who will as they of course really want your car. I’ve reported it all and have let everyone know but it’s still very annoying. Hope this helps someone to not do it.

This is being done for motorcycles too. I've gotten requests from 2 different people about buying my motorcycle and getting a report. I was immediately suspicious and when I clicked on the link they gave me, my computer gave me a warning notice about the site.

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