SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - People who shop online for a new car or boat need to beware: you might end up paying thousands of dollars for a vehicle that doesn't even exist! Scammers linked to a phony South Dakota address took a Florida woman for a ride when she tried to purchase a truck on Craigslist.
The Better Business Bureau says the scammers take out ads on Craigslist and Facebook offering to sell everything from cars, trucks, motorcycles, RV's and boats at steep discounts. That low price, the BBB says, should be your first red flag.
It turns out, many of those ads are taken out by fraudulent shipping companies that promise to deliver the vehicles, after you wire them money. The problem is, once you pay-up, the business doesn't deliver, because there never was a car to sell in the first place.
The shady ads say the owner has to sell a car on-the-cheap, with a sob story attached.
"They're active military, they're going to be deployed, they've lost a spouse and this is there spouse's vehicle, there's just too many emotional attached to it, so I just want to get rid of the vehicle," BBB South Dakota State Director Jessie Schmidt said.
But it's not a grieving widow or a soldier selling the car, the BBB says it's likely a fraudulent vehicle shipping company trying to hook a victim.
"The shipping company is the scammer," Schmidt said.
A Florida woman tells the BBB that she lost $16,000 for a truck that a Sioux Falls company, SD Shippers, never delivered to her. So we had Jessie Schmidt give the company a call.
"I don't think they answer, I think it's you leave a message," Schmidt said.
But to our surprise, someone did answer!
"Thanks for calling SD Shippers, this is Alex, what can I do for you today?"
Jessie Schmidt: "So Alex, if I want to arrange to have a car shipped, how do I do that?"
The man calling himself Alex hemmed and hawed during his answer.
"If you arrange to have a car shipped you need to, ah, first of all, you need your tracking number so I can change it."
Alex became more uncomfortable as the conversation went on.
Jessie Schmidt: "I want to move the car from here to Florida, do I just bring it out to you at your South Dakota address?"
"Yeah, that's it. He hung up," Schmidt said.
After Alex hung up, we went out to the address listed for SD Shippers. It turns out, the location is an empty warehouse in northwest Sioux Falls.
A business located in a different building next-door says someone even called them Wednesday morning asking for their truck that never arrived.
The Better Business Bureau has issued a business alert for an auto shipping company that lists an Omaha address. The BBB says that company may also be connected to SD Shippers.
For tips on how to avoid being scammed by a vehicle shipper, click here