June 5, 2018

The FBI has posted a warning about a growing scam where criminals are targeting consumers looking to buy cars online. In an effort to help our members protect their finances, we want to be sure you know about this.

What is the car buying scam?

The fraudster posts an online ad offering the car for sale at a low price with a few photos and a description. When the car buyer reaches out, the criminal sends along more photos and a logical explanation for why the price is discounted and indicates an urgency to sell. The scammer instructs the consumer to purchase pre-paid gift cards in the amount of the sale and share the pre-paid codes with them. You’re typically told you’ll receive the vehicle in a few days – which doesn’t happen.

The FBI explains that the scam can be quite intricate and the fraudsters may even mention a buyer protection program or guarantee. They often send an email with a toll-free number that impersonates another company.

How to protect yourself

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The FBI recommends these measures to protect yourself:

  • Inspect a car in person before purchasing. If the seller doesn’t want you to, there’s probably something wrong. And be sure to meet in a safe place such the police station parking lot during business hours.
  • Avoid cars that seem like a “steal.” If it’s advertised for thousands less than all the other cars of its type, it’s probably not legit.
  • Think twice before sending money. Payment methods such as paying with gift cards, wiring money, and Bitcoin could be an indicator that it’s a scam. 

Additionally, you should never provide account numbers, Social Security numbers or any personal information to strangers. If you are not sure who is contacting you, don’t give out your information. A little common sense and double checking will go a long way to protecting yourself. Stay safe and use caution.

If you suspect fraud

If you have been scammed and your money stolen, be sure to file a police report and file a complaint with the FBI. If you think you’ve given your 1st United account information to anyone, call us immediately at (800) 649-0193. We can place additional safeguards on your account.