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Scammers now targeting classic car and vintage 4x4 buyers

Looking for an old Vette, Mustang, or Bronco? Beware.
Classic cars, motorcycles gather for 40th annual Concours d'Elegance in Ault Park
Posted at 5:56 AM, May 10, 2024

Buying a car online is more common than ever these days.

But the Better Business Bureau has just issued a warning, saying impostors are trying to scam you out of your money, especially when it comes to older and classic cars that are often located out of state.

And just when you put a down payment on the old car of your dreams, it turns out there is no car at all.

Classic car dealer gets targeted

Matt Milbrandt owns a classic car dealership, Seven Hills Motorcars, selling everything from classic Corvettes and Mustangs to vintage Chevy Blazers.

"Classic 4x4's are the hottest thing in the classic car market right now," he said, explaining that a 1980s-era Blazer or Ford Bronco can now sell for $30,000 or more.

Lately, however, he's been the target of scam artists, who copy and repost his listings online.

"They cut off the watermark in our photos," he said, "and essentially steal our entire website."

He says they sometimes claim to be legitimate car dealerships in other states, making the whole scam look authentic.

Milbrandt says photos and descriptions of his beautiful cars show up on social media and copycat websites, where scammers get buyers to send deposits of $1,000 or more.

"That's happened to us twice this year, in 2024," he said.

When buyers finally reach him, he says he knows nothing about a deal because it turns out they made a deal with a scammer in another state.

He says it works because scammers list much lower prices, sometimes half the price that a 1960s or 1970s car should really sell for.

"They entice people by having a very cheap price so it seems like it's a good deal," he said.

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Seven Hills Motorcars

BBB shows how to protect yourself

The Better Business Bureau finds scammers increasingly use fake listings on legitimate marketplaces to target "high-end buyers of rare classic cars."

The majority of victims, the BBB says, are 45 and older and have money to spend.

"That generation has the income now to go after that classic car they've always wanted," Melanie McGovern of the BBB said.

She says scammers may also use a fake escrow company to hold the money while the vehicle is supposedly being shipped.

"But in reality," she said, "they haven't purchased anything, and they've just lost the money."

The BBB says to protect yourself:

  • Never send money for a car using a payment service like Zelle or Venmo; you can never get it back
  • Always try to see and test drive a vehicle in person
  • Ask for a photo showing the title next to the car; if the ad is fake, he won't have the title, and you should immediately move on.
  • Is the car out of state? Ask the seller to do a FaceTime or Zoom chat with you in front of the car so you see that he really owns it

"FaceTime is a nice piece of insurance, and you see it in real-time," Milbrandt said.
He says never send that deposit until you are sure the seller really has the car.

That way you know there really is a car for sale, and you don't waste your money.
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