Selling a vehicle? Beware of this online hustle

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Beware the vehicle history scam, if you’re trying to sell your car or truck.

The Better Business Bureau says it’s getting reports about a con that is tricking sellers into buying vehicle reports through fake sites.

In one case, the scam unfolded this way: A man who advertised his vehicle on a local website was contacted by a potential buyer who claimed to be interested in making the purchase. First, though, the potential buyer wanted a report on the vehicle’s identification number and asked the seller to purchase one through an unfamiliar website.

“Fortunately, this seller recognized the scam and reported it to BBB,” the organization said. “But plenty of others have fallen for the con.”

Some of the scam websites to which potential buyers refer are simply trying to “steal $20 from unsuspecting customers,” the BBB says. But in other cases, the bogus site seeks to collect personal information such as an address, driver’s license number and/or credit card information. Also, the website link itself might be the scam, downloading malware to the victim’s computer.

Here’s what to know, according to the BBB:

• Be wary if you get a request to purchase something from a specific website as a condition for sale. While it’s not unusual for an interested party to want a VIN report, it’s better to select the site yourself. You can make sure it’s got a good reputation by checking out the business at

• The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a division of the Department of Justice, provides a list of approved providers. Go to

General things to watch for when selling a vehicle:

• The buyer wants to send a check or money order for more than the price of the vehicle, asking that you ship the car or truck and keep the excess amount. Checks or money orders should be confirmed as legitimate before the vehicle is delivered.

• Buyer offers full payment without even seeing the vehicle.

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The ubiquitous tech support scam is evolving, with some new twists, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

This kind of scam involves criminals trying to sell you some sort of tech help – sometimes after the bad actors are the ones to have messed up your computer in the first place.

They might pose as a security, customer or technical support rep, although some recent reports involve fraudsters pretending to be with GPS, printer or cable companies, or even with virtual currency exchangers, the FBI says. A new twist is that some are posing as government agents, offering to help recover supposed losses related to tech support fraud schemes or to request money to help capture tech support perpetrators.

The means for this scam can be a phone call, a pop-up message on a locked screen or a phishing email warning. They might say your computer is infected with a virus and is sending out error messages. They will instruct you to call a number to contact a fake tech support company, or if they have you on the phone, they will walk you through supposed repair.

What they’re trying to do is get you to pay a fee or provide entry to your computer so they can steal personal information. Another new twist: the scammers follow up by sending an official-looking letter from a law firm saying you signed up for the bogus tech support but failed to pay and are therefore commiting “civil theft.” The letter includes a case number and a 24-hour number to call so you can make the payment, according to the Fraud Watch Network.

The FBI center says it received about 11,000 complaints related to tech support fraud in 2017. The claimed losses amounted to nearly $15 million, a whopping 86 percent increase compared to 2016. While a majority of tech support fraud involves victims in the United States, the FBI says it has received complaints from victims in 85 different countries.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.

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