The COVID-19 social distancing guidelines have driven Mohawk Valley consumers to purchase all sorts of things online, and the deals have been really good. According to the Better Business Bureau, some of those deals are too good to be true.

"Many online platforms list cars, trucks, vans, and RVs for very low prices, with sellers offering to make third-party delivery arrangements if the buyer pays via an escrow account. In reality, neither the automobile nor the escrow company exists -- leaving the buyer without their money or a vehicle," according to BBB.

A study by the BBB has shown that thousands of New Yorkers have fallen victim to scams like this with millions of dollars in losses.  "Websites such as Craigslist are filled with advertisements for low-price vehicles, with sellers claiming that the reduced price is because of an upcoming military deployment overseas, a divorce, or the death of a family member. Victims are directed to pay a supposedly independent third party, typically by wire transfer, to hold money in escrow and ship the vehicle," according to BBB's study. The problem is, no vehicle is ever delivered to the consumer.

The Better Business Bureau is offering these tips to avoid falling for scams like these.

Watch out for too good to be true deals. They are most likely a scam. Scammers often steal consumers’ personal information and money by offering them high-value goods at extremely discounted prices.

Never wire funds or complete bank-to-bank transactions. Scammers love this kind of transaction because there is no way for you to get your money back once it is completed. Instead, make legitimate purchases by check or credit card.

Contact the seller by phone. At some point during your negotiations, speak with the seller on the phone. If they are unusually vague about certain details of the sale or cannot confirm their location or the vehicle location, it’s most likely a scam.

See the car first. If possible, make an in-person inspection and take a test drive first.

Don’t give in to pressure. Scammers often try to pressure you into giving up your personal information or making a down payment before you have time to think about the purchase. Take your time and think a deal over before agreeing to anything. If you get a bad feeling, listen to your gut.

Don’t trust a seller or buyer who says that the transaction is guaranteed by eBay, PayPal, Craigslist, or another online marketplace. These sites explicitly explain they cannot guarantee that people using their services are legitimate. Anyone who says otherwise is lying (see reporting list below).

If you suspect you've been scammed online it's important to report the potential crime to your local police department, and then to report to the following agencies.



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