Tucsonan falls victim to car scam - Tucson News Now

Tucsonan falls victim to car scam

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Aaron Raftis said he found a posting for a 2014 Ford F 250 while scrolling through carfax.com

The dealership was listed as 5th Street Auto Sales in Alliance, Ohio. Raftis said he went on the dealership's website and sent them a message. 

"I'm interested in the vehicle, wanted to know if it's still available. Probably within about 30-40 minutes the dealership reached out to me and called me," Raftis said. 

Soon after, Raftis reached out to his bank, JP Morgan Chase, and started the process for an auto loan. He said the bank did their own research to make sure the business was legitimate. 

"I sent him a copy of the dealer's business license or their resell license and they did whatever their background check was. And numerous times with me on the phone he told me everything looked good," Raftis said. 

When Raftis asked the dealership for the title of the truck to provide to the bank, they told him they would need a $5,000 refundable deposit first. After two unsuccessful transfers, the dealership instructed Raftis on how to use Green Dot MoneyPak Cards to send the money. 

"He said first thing Monday morning I'll start the process to get the transport truck here. I can guarantee your truck will be picked up from the dealership and leaving the dealership Monday night and you should be receiving it in a couple of days," Raftis said. 

CRIME COVERAGE: The KOLD News 13 mugshots of the month are available HERE.

When Raftis didn't hear from them Monday, he called the Alliance Police Department and the Better Business Bureau of Canton Region. 

He said the police department said he wasn't the first person to call them about 5th Street Auto Sales. It was through his conversation with the BBB that he learned he had become a victim of an elaborate scheme. 

An investigation by the BBB found 5th Street Auto Sales closed in 2015. Their registration with the Ohio Secretary of State's Office was canceled on September 21, 2015. 

The website was just created on February 28, 2017. 

Raftis said he was told by the BBB that the FBI is investigating but he's had no luck trying to get his money back. 

"Never in a million years did I think this was a possible thing to do. As far as having a fake website, fake vehicles, and a business license and everything of that nature," Raftis said. 

The Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona has some tips on how to make sure you don't become a victim of a scam like this one: 

TIPS FOR AVOIDING A CAR SCAM

  • Only purchase local vehicles
  • Meet seller in public place with second person, preferably one who is savvy in vehicle maintenance, to do a test drive.
  • NEVER wire money or use a bank-to-bank transfer in a transaction.
  • ALWAYS try to deal locally when buying or selling an automobile or other high-value merchandise
  • DO NOT sell or buy a car from someone who is unable or unwilling to meet you face to face.
  • NEVER buy a car that you have not seen in real life and had inspected by a professional. A vehicle history report may also be a good idea, though scammers have been known to use fake vehicle identification numbers to defeat this countermeasure.
  • WAIT until a check (personal, cashier’s, certified, or otherwise) has cleared the bank to transfer title or the car itself. Funds being made available by a bank DOES NOT mean the check is not counterfeit. Clearing a check can take days or weeks depending on the financial institutions involved. Check with your bank about their particular processes for clearing checks.
  • NEVER trust a seller or buyer who says that the transaction is GUARANTEED by eBay, Craigslist, PayPal, or other online marketplace. These sites explicitly DO NOT guarantee that people using their services are legitimate.
  • BEWARE sellers or buyers who want to conclude a transaction as quickly as possible. Scammers want to get your money before you have time to think or have a professional examine the deal.
  • CALL the buyer or seller to establish phone contact. If the buyer or seller seems to neglect details agreed to via e-mail or is unable to answer questions about their location or the location of the automobile in question, it is likely to be a scam.
  • ALWAYS trust your gut. If a deal feels “fishy” or sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Plenty of people use online classified ads to buy and sell cars every day. The vast majority of these transactions are legitimate and go smoothly. Losing out on a “great” deal in order to work with someone you trust could save you big in avoiding a possible scam.
  • Run a check on the VIN # after pulling it directly from the car via a service like Carfax or vehiclehistory.com

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