BURNSVILLE, Minn.-Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota is warning consumers shopping for vehicles on the internet to be on alert if the seller suggests using a third party to handle the transaction. Based on information provided by BBB St. Louis and a concerned area business owner, the local BBB is now aware of two suspect entities with websites claiming physical addresses in North Dakota, both of which are believed to be involved in a nationwide scheme.
Since late March, consumers have reported finding cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, boats, jet skis, semi-trucks and farm equipment listed for sale at too-good-to-be-true prices ranging from $3,200 to $15,000, primarily on local Craigslist pages, Autotrader and free local print publications. Consumers that have gone ahead and completed transactions with sellers in these situations say they did not receive the vehicles nor a refund of their money.
The suspected entities claiming addresses in North Dakota are Yellow Shippers (https://yellow-shippers.com/), which lists an address in Fargo, and Bismarck Shippers (https://www.bismarck-shippers.com/), which purports to operate out of Bismarck.
The sellers tell the buyers they are using a shipper to handle escrow and transportation of the vehicle to the potential buyer. BBB believes the sellers and shippers are both fraudulent.
The buyer contacts the seller, who shares a story via email about why they are selling the item. The "seller" tells the buyer that the vehicle and paperwork are being stored at the shipper's location (Fargo, St. Louis, Kansas City or Omaha) where they recently moved to be with family. An alternate story involves the seller being deployed. Buyers are instructed to wire money to the shipper's bank. They are told they will have five days to evaluate the vehicle and if they aren't satisfied, the vehicle can be returned to the shipper, with all shipping fees paid by the seller.
Potential buyers are given the name of a financial representative and are asked to complete a bank-to-bank wire transfer. Law enforcement authorities believe the financial representatives are real people who may or may not know they are being used by the scammers to move the money.
Once the wire transfer is complete, it is very difficult to recoup money. BBB urges consumers who believe they may be victims of the scam to contact their bank immediately to report the issue and seek any assistance that their bank may be able to provide.
Additionally, BBB encourages consumers who have lost money in this scam to file a complaint with BBB and a report with local law enforcement. Consumers who have encountered this scheme, but not lost money to it may file a report through BBB Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org.