SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Scammers are cashing-in on the pandemic by taking advantage of unsuspecting customers who purchase vehicles over the Internet. More people are buying items online to avoid face-to-face contact during the coronavirus. But scammers are selling vehicles they don’t even own, at prices so low, their victims rush to buy them without first doing their homework.
Maria Iyotte of St. Francis is caring for her adult son with special needs, so when her car broke down, it created a family crisis.
“We needed desperately a car, because everything is far away, to go to the doctor is a 3-hour drive,” Iyotte said.
Iyotte became intrigued when an ad surfaced on social media.
“Something popped up and it looked good! It was a pickup truck, a GMC pickup truck and the lady wanted $800 for it,” Iyotte said.
Iyotte did her due diligence by emailing the woman who claimed to be the pickup’s owner.
“And she wrote back to me and said yeah, this truck was always in the garage, barely used because her husband just died like six months ago and she had to move out of the house,” Iyotte said.
But Iyotte became suspicious when the woman demanded payment in gift cards.
“I talked to my husband again and said, hey, you know, they want gift cards. So he looked at me and he said, no! Wait a moment, that’s a scam, don’t do it,” Iyotte said.
Fraud experts say many of these virtual vehicle sales scammers are from foreign countries and that’s why they ask for gift cards.
“So by getting that gift card, they’re just giving them the number that’s on the back, they’re not actually moving money from that country, to have that gift card number, I can make a purchase online from anywhere,” Heartland Association of Certified Fraud Examiners President Eric Rodriguez said.
Iyotte never went through with the sale and wants to share her story so others don’t fall victim to these scammers.
“It’s terrible. How can they steal from people or handicapped people? I just don’t understand how people can be like that,” Iyotte said.
Iyotte has since bought a new car, through a legitimate seller.
A lot of the fraudulent ads you see online come with a sob story, like a death in the family, or the owner is going through a divorce, or a military deployment. To learn about other red flags to watch for, click here