Two years ago, numerous Canadian car buyers lost thousands of dollars because they fell victim to believable online scams. These scams consisted of low-priced, high-end vehicles sold on various online advertising platforms. Consumers were enticed by the great prices and shipping. What they failed to realize, however, was that these vehicles did not exist.
While the majority of these scam websites shut down due to press, they have continued to reappear under new names, such as:
- Double Eagle Motors
- Husen Original Autos
- Sprint Luxury Auto
- Ambient Auto Centre
Most recently, the websites in question are Garden City Trucks, Trucks of Kansas and Ken's Kars Florida. These "dealers" are not licensed or registered as business in their locations. And, further investigations found that their website domains have servers based overseas.
While these phantom dealerships will likely shut down, history shows that a new bogus site will eventually take their place.
Consumers are urged to do proper and thorough research before purchasing a vehicle, especially online. Buying from a licensed dealer and getting a vehicle history report is the best way to ensure maximum protection. BC car buyers are encouraged to check the list of known curbers (unlicensed dealers) and search for licensed dealers and salespeople before buying a vehicle.
As many as twelve million vehicles worldwide have been recalled due to faulty Japanese-made airbags. The Takata airbags can malfunction, sending metal fragments and injuring seat occupants upon deployment. The issue is currently being handled by Transport Canada. Unless there is evidence to suggest a particular B.C. motor dealer has somehow misrepresented these recalls to a consumer, the VSA will not be conducting its own investigation. If a vehicle is believed to be affected, please contact your dealer for more information.
All vehicles expected to be affected can be viewed here.
If it is suspected that a safety-related defect is affecting your vehicle, it can be reported to Transport Canada's Defect Investigations and Recalls Division. They will investigate consumer concerns about possible vehicle safety issues needing a recall notice.
Buyer beware isn't a rule when buying from a licensed dealer. But, a judge in Prince George found that this concept applied to a private purchase. A Vernon man claimed for damages when a recently bought van turned out to be in need of extensive repairs. The vehicle, which was purchased for $20,160 from a Burns Lake couple, ended up needing over $12,000 of extra repairs.
The judge claimed that the buyer's financial loss was his own responsibility. And since it was a private sale, the "standards set out in the Sale of Goods Act and the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act do not apply." The private sellers did not owe the buyer "a duty of care." Licensed dealers and salespeople, on the other hand, have to follow the principal of seller beware. Consumer protection legislation shifts many responsibilities and obligations to the seller.
Odometer tampering has become a common crime recently, with close to 200,000 cars affected in the United States alone. Not only does odometer fraud cost consumers thousands of dollars, but serious safety issues may also occur with the vehicle.
And, it's hitting close to home. Just across the border, a Calgary man is being charged for scamming more than 50 buyers. The vehicles were originally purchased at auction houses. After some small repairs – and an odometer rollback – the vehicles were sold on sites such as Kijiji, Craigslist and AutoTrader. In one case, one of the vehicles had almost 208,000 kilometers rolled back. So far, the value of the fraud is estimated to be at $300,000.
Sadly, this is happening all over the US, and many used vehicles in BC are imported from the US. Make sure that you are getting the protections of buying from a licensed dealer and obtain a current vehicle history report. A licensed dealer in BC is required to provide you with the accurate mileage on a vehicle. Even if they unknowingly sell a vehicle with incorrect mileage, they are still responsible for that error.
Read about more cases on odometer fraud in the US below:
You may not be the only one. According to Consumer Reports, many manufacturers no longer include a spare tire in the trunk. Consumers may instead find a tire-inflator kit, which includes a small air compressor and a can of sealant, or a run-flat tire (tires that can be driven short distances after a puncture). Why are manufacturers choosing the replace the spares? To save on weight and, essentially, gas. Overall, this improves the car's fuel economy.
While removing a 45-pound spare tire may seem like a reasonable way to save on gas, Consumer Reports recommends that manufacturers and dealers be upfront about what is included in the vehicle. Consumer Reports also recommends that consumers take their own precautions to ensure they're getting a vehicle that is fully equipped, such as reading the window stickers carefully and asking direct questions at the dealership.
Source: Consumer Reports
With the recent rise in manufacturer recalls, the VSA is seeing an increase in recall-related questions. While dealers have an obligation to research and disclose the history and condition of a vehicle, consumers are encouraged to conduct their own research as well.
Consumer Best Practices
- · Research the recall history of vehicle models. Resources include the Government of Canada's general recall website for all categories of products, including vehicles. The USA Department of Transport's National Highway and Traffic Safety Authority also launched a VIN specific limited recall look up.
- · Check the recall history of a specific vehicle with the manufacturer using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A recall may affect only a certain number of vehicles of the same make, model and year.
- · Ask for proof from the dealer of the status of any recall issues from the seller.
Dealership Best Practices
- · Checking online and with the manufacturer using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
- · Knowing where a recall was made. A recall in the United States may not be a recall in Canada.
- · Knowing the full scope of a recall. For example, if the problem occurred in just part of the production run, the recall may apply to only certain vehicles of the same model or year.
- · Advising consumers of any outstanding or uncorrected recalls. However, recalls required for a vehicle to meet the minimum requirements of the Motor Vehicle Act must be completed before a vehicle is sold for use as transportation.
This fall, Walt returns to print and online publications reminding consumers to buy from licensed dealers for the full protections of the law. Keep an eye out for Walt's advice column in the Driveway section of many Black Press community newspapers. Walt also makes his television debut with three, 30 second video spots. Until early December, see if you can spot Walt the Curber in rotation on CHEK TV. To increase your chances, 15 second versions are also in rotation on the CHECK TV website before current news videos. Soon, they will also be on many Black Press community newspaper sites.
Last year, numerous car buyers saw their pockets emptied as they fell prey to online scams. Now, consumers are asked to beware of the same kind of scams when buying an RV. A scam website, operating as rv-wheels.com, was found to be run by scammers out of Nigeria. They were supposedly based in Missouri, and interested buyers from around the country traveled there to pick up their non-existent motorhomes. Unfortunately, since the scammers are overseas, there is not much authorities could do. Those who were victimized were not able to get their deposit money back.
While the website has shut down due to press, similar off-shore scams are still in action. Consumers are encouraged to purchase vehicles from licensed dealerships for maximum protection. Doing further research, such as checking if the business is registered in the state of origin or completing website domain searches, can provide a better piece of mind. From time to time, consumers can also check the list of known scam websites, which is continuously updated. And, to search for local licensed dealerships in BC, consumers can use this tool: Search for Dealers and Salespeople.
A Canadian insurance company – Economic Insurance (EI) - took matters into their own hands when they recovered two stolen, high-end SUVs. Instead of being resold to unsuspecting consumers, the two vehicles were deemed unsafe, stripped for parts and then taken to the crusher – ensuring that no consumer can ever get a hold of them.
The vehicles were first reported stolen in Ontario in 2009. They were then recovered a year later. It was found that the VINs were altered, and both vehicles had salvage parts put in from other vehicles. The company's VP calls them "Frankenstein" vehicles, saying "there's no way to know they're safe structurally, mechanically, and in the case of an accident." It is believed that the stolen vehicles were to be put up for sale to the public.
Your car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) may help you dodge a bad deal.
What is a VIN? Well, it's kind of like your car's fingerprint. Technically speaking, every car is identified by a unique combination of 17 digits – no two cars have the same VIN. Most often, the VIN is found on the dashboard near the windshield and inside the driver's side door. Cars that are more prone to theft may also have the VIN etched in other places.
So how can the VIN help you avoid getting scammed in a private sale? Often, a private seller may turn out to be a curber. They may misrepresent the history and/or condition of the car or try to sell you a stolen vehicle. But, using the car's VIN, you can find important information about its history. This includes any prior accidents, registration information, and unpaid liens. Ultimately, you can use the VIN to make sure the car is really what the seller claims it is.
Before you purchase, make sure to:
- Check all VIN locations to confirm the numbers are the same
- Check for any signs of VIN tampering (including scratched numbers, paint or glue over VIN area)
- Match the VIN number on the vehicle with the VIN number on the registration documents
- Use a VIN decoder (CarProof has a free one) to see if vehicle characteristics match up