GAINESVILLE - In the market for a new or used car? Be careful of how and where you do your shopping. The Community Service Unit of the Hall County Sheriff's Office has encountered another scam it wants to make you aware of, particularly if you car shop online.
It's not a new scam, officials say, but the "same old song with a new chorus."
Variations of the scam's story line may have a plot twist involving someone in the military who must sell their vehicle because they are being deployed. It may involve someone who is changing job locations, moving from one coast to the other. The car is in top notch condition, low miles, no scratches/dents/accidents and a "steal" for an "unheard of price."
Sound too good to be true? That's because, this one is. The sheriff's office a recent victim was given a scenario similar to the one above, after finding the car she wanted on Craigslist. She made contact with the seller, who insisted on going through Amazon.com, because it was "safer for both and insured." Then she was told that the car is already prepared for shipping. It will be delivered at no extra charge, relatively quickly. All she had to do was go to a local store and purchase a Money Gram, and send it to someone other than the listed "Seller."
After following through with the instructions from the seller, the next email she received stated that she was "obligated to pay shipping insurance," as well. Several days later - alarmed and deprived of her money and with no car to show for her efforts - the victim contacted the sheriff's office.
The department offers these ways ways to safeguard yourself against falling prey to online scam artists:
1. Stay local. Search the inventories of local and well-known local car dealers online. Then visit the lot to test drive the vehicle of your liking.
2. Avoid wire transfers and purchasing money grams or money paks to parties whom you have only met and corresponded with online.
3. Don't commit to an offer/deal without visibly inspecting and thoroughly checking out the product, in person
4. Research the "Seller." Even a quick Google search of the name/alias could give you a clue as to whether or not you could be getting scammed
5. Trust your gut. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
6. Closely guard your personal identity information
If you feel that you have fallen victim to a scam, report it right away. If your financial information has been given to a scammer, notify your bank and other financial institutions. Make a report with the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) and local law enforcement.
The Hall County Sheriff's Office will take your report and provide you with further assistance. Call us at (770)531-6900, or for non-emergency dispatch, you may contact (770)536-8812.