On Your Side Alert: Used car scams target newspapers

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Thieves are preying on your patriotism. A viewer alerted us after seeing an Ad "car for sale", supposedly from someone in the military. We investigated, and found it's not what you think.

The offer recently showed up in the Classified section of the Richmond Times Dispatch. It's part of a scam campaign targeting newspapers nationwide. It claims to be from someone in the military, selling the car through The Army and Air Force Exchange Service website. The website is legitimate -- the ad is not. We reached the organization by phone and spoke with Kurt Curtis, an Investigator with Army and Air Force Exchange Service. "Consumers have contacted us about this scam. Sadly some have sent money," he says.

A viewer, who didn't want to talk on camera alerted us to the fraud. Anyone responding to the number in the ad gets a fake invoice. "They find vehicles that are probably for sale. They probably go on to some auto sales site and they capture vehicle information and VIN numbers and the pictures from a sale and they would duplicate that," Curtis says.

The Exchange says keep in mind it does not sell used or new cars in the U.S., or advertise in newspapers. If you see one, steer clear. "It is just focusing on our patriotism for these soldiers who are going overseas and defrauding the people who work hard for their money," Curtis says.

Here are some safety tips when dealing with online ads: Never wire or transfer money, try to find a car locally, don't buy from someone you haven't met and of course, never buy a car unless you have seen it and inspected it. "This puts a bad taste in people's mouths and minds about what the Exchange is. I mean these poor people are being defrauded and they think the Exchange had something to do with it and that is not the case," Curtis explains.

The viewer that alerted us also got several emails from the supposed seller, hoping to collect personal information and eventually get paid. Our viewer didn't fall for it -- but people have. A little research before you give up your money can add an extra layer of protection. "The fraud is the offspring of greed and when you have greed, you are going to have fraud. The Exchange is a valuable company. We've been around for 118 years supporting the service," Curtis says.

The Richmond Times Dispatch says it has plans in place to safeguard its readers and will increase security after this recent phony ad. If you run across of one of these fake ads, you can report it to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Helpful links: