The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers of a new scam involving vehicle history reports. Scammers are targeting people who are selling their vehicles online in an effort to steal their money and personal information.
Here’s how the scam works:
The seller receives a call or text from someone who claims to be interested in buying their vehicle. Before making the purchase, the buyer asks to see a vehicle history report and asks the seller to get the report from a specific website, where they are instructed to enter information and pay roughly $20 by credit card for the report. When the seller goes to one of these websites, they’re automatically redirected to a site ending in ‘.vin’.
Like .com and .org, .vin is a website domain. This domain was intended to be used for sites that relate to wine, as “vin” is the French word for wine. Since others are not prevented from using it, scammers hope unsuspecting consumers might be tricked into thinking it’s related to a car’s VIN or vehicle identification number.
In most cases, after the seller sent the vehicle history report to the supposed buyer, they were never heard from again. If you are selling a car online and someone asks for the vehicle history report from a specific site, play it safe and ask why. It’s most likely a scam to get your personal information, including your credit card number. It may also be a way for companies called “lead generators” to gain personal information, which they then sell to third parties for advertising and marketing purposes.
If you’re buying a used car, the FTC recommends getting a vehicle history report before you buy. Vehicle history reports can tell you a lot about used cars, including ownership history, whether the vehicle was in any accidents, its repair records and whether it was ever declared as salvage.
The only publicly available system in the U.S. to which all insurance carriers, auto recyclers, junk and salvage yards are required by federal law to report to on a regular basis is the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). NMVTIS was designed to help protect consumers from fraud and unsafe vehicles and to keep stolen vehicles from being resold. Visit the website for a list of approved vehicle history report providers, tips for buying a used car and information on understanding an NMVTIS vehicle history report.