DES PLAINES, Ill. – The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today issued a warning to the public about an organized scam involving sales of vehicles through the popular online market place, Craigslist.
Working with law enforcement agencies in the Chicago area and across the Midwest, NICB has identified nearly 100 instances of sales of vehicles that went sour when phony bank checks were used to pay for the vehicle.
"These scams are well organized and have all the appearances of being legitimate," said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. "But in the end, the criminal gets the car and the sellers or their financial institutions are left on the hook for thousands of dollars still owed on the car."
Such was the case with Mike and Christy Childers of Elizabethtown, Ky., who sold their 2010 Corvette on Craigslist, only to learn that the check that their bank initially said was valid, was actually bogus. Fortunately, quick action by law enforcement agencies in Kentucky and Illinois, with assistance from NICB, led to the recovery of the Corvette after it had been picked up, driven to Chicago, and listed for sale again on Craigslist.
Unfortunately, some online car sales lead to much more serious results, as witnessed by the alleged murder of a Missouri man this week as he met a buyer that had seen his car for sale on Craigslist.
NICB advises anyone trying to sell or buy a vehicle on Craigslist to follow their very specific guidelines which can be found here https://www.craigslist.org/about/scams.
Any face-to-face meetings should take place at a location that is highly public, preferably at a police station.
Scammers are particularly active in states where the vehicle owner retains the title even though there is an outstanding lien. They will pressure sellers to sign over the title and give them what appears to be a valid bank or cashier's check to pay for the vehicle. Never sign over a title until you have the money in hand. Avoid accepting any kind of check, but if you do, take the time to make sure any alleged bank or cashier's check has actually cleared and you have the cash. It may take a week to 10 days for a check to clear. If it's bogus, you could be left responsible for paying off the loan even though the car is long gone.
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword "fraud" to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on their website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.