Tips for Consumers: BBB Name Used to Scam Online Buyers
Tips for Consumers
BBB Name Used to Scam Online Buyers
The Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland has issued an alert to warn about individuals misusing the BBB and BBBOnLine trademarks to extort money from online shoppers seeking to purchase automobiles.
The BBB system has received an inquiry from an online shopper who was searching for an automobile on cars.com. The shopper was sent an invoice by e-mail from someone posing as an escrow service that displayed a cars.com and BBBOnLine banner and listed several other BBB sites, including BBB Dispute Resolution, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), National Advertising Division and National Advertising Review Council.
The fraudulent e-mail invoice contains claims that the Better Business Bureau and cars.com are trusted, neutral third parties. The e-mail goes on to say that, "With cars.com Security Center and Better Business Bureau you will receive your merchandise before the seller is paid." Buyers were encouraged to make their cash payments through Western Union to an address in Sweden.
"These scam artists are falsely using the BBB and BBBOnLine trademarks to inspire trust and confidence on the part of the buyer," said Nicholas Greaves, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. "The BBB system has taken steps to prevent others from being victimized by demanding that the individuals involved cease and desist from using the BBB and BBBOnLine trademarks to pursue their extortion schemes."
This e-mail is in no way affiliated with the Better Business Bureau, BBBOnLine or any other BBB entity, or with cars.com. BBB trademarks have been misused in the past in this same manner. It is important for the public to know that Better Business Bureaus do not provide escrow services or secure financial transactions. Cars.com does not provide escrow services, however; it does provide consumers access to reputable escrow services through its partnership with escrow.com.
Cars.com states on its Web site that it is not involved in the transaction between buyers and sellers. In addition, the reference in the e-mail of a "cars.com Security Center" is not consistent with any messaging provided by cars.com or any of its affiliates.
"We advise consumers to make sure they use a licensed, reputable escrow service and never blindly accept an escrow service proposed by a buyer," said Chris Long, cars.com's director of product management. "We also recommend that consumers use extreme caution when dealing with buyers or sellers who claim to do business overseas, as this is a high indicator of fraudulent activity."
The BBB advises consumers to:
* always contact the BBB at www.bbbmd.org when there are questions concerning the legitimacy of an offer or an unknown business entity;
* always check with the BBB when its name is being used in an unusual or questionable fashion;
* "click to check" BBBOnLine Reliability or BBBOnLine Privacy program seals displayed on merchant Web sites or go to www.bbbonline.org for a list of merchants meeting BBBOnLine standards.
To file a complaint visit: www.baltimore.bbb.org or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.