An insurance industry-backed crime watch group is warning about an organized auto sales scam involving the popular online market place, Craigslist.
Working with law enforcement agencies in the Chicago area and across the Midwest, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says it has identified nearly 100 sales where phony bank checks were used to pay for the vehicle.
“These scams are well organized and have all the appearances of being legitimate,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “But in the end, the criminal gets the car and the sellers or their financial institutions are left on the hook for thousands of dollars still owed on the car.”
NICB is citing the case of Mike and Christy Childers of Elizabethtown, Ky., who sold their 2010 Corvette on Craigslist, only to learn that the check that their bank initially said was valid, was actually bogus. Law enforcement agencies in Kentucky and Illinois, with assistance from NICB, were able to recover the Corvette after it had been picked up, driven to Chicago, and listed for sale again on Craigslist.
NICB says some online car sales lead to more serious results, including the alleged murder of a Missouri man this week as he met a buyer that had seen his car for sale on Craigslist.
NICB, which is supported by more than 1,100 property/casualty insurance companies, advises online sellers to insist that any face-to-face meetings take place at a location that is highly public, preferably at a police station.
NICB says scammers are particularly active in states where the vehicle owner retains the title even though there is an outstanding lien. They will pressure sellers to sign over the title and give them what appears to be a valid bank or cashier’s check to pay for the vehicle.
NICB says owners should never sign over a title until they have their money in hand and should avoid accepting any kind of check. If they do accept a check, they should make sure the bank or cashier’s check has actually cleared, which may take a week to 10 days.
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on the NICB website.
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