BBB: Virtual vehicle vendor scam reports rose in 2023

Published 11:06 am Thursday, April 4, 2024

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In 2023, virtual vehicle vendor scam reports to BBB increased as fraudsters targeted high-end classic car buyers and exploited vehicle history reports to steal money and information.

Since 2020, reports to Better Business Bureau have shown that scammers used the COVID-19 pandemic to list non-existent vehicles of all kinds on real online marketplaces. In more recent reports, they are increasingly turning to fake websites modeled after licensed sellers. These look-a-like websites use stolen photos, contact information and even vehicle identification numbers (VIN) to fool consumers.

In “Virtual vehicle vendor scams and related fraud persist post-pandemic,” Better Business Bureau examines the patterns of reports, reviews the amount of money lost and learns from those caught up in the scams to protect the public through education.

Key findings:

• Online vehicle vendor scam reports to BBB Scam Tracker declined in 2022 but increased to new highs in 2023;

• Buyers 45 and older accounted for more than three-quarters of all reports on virtual vehicle vendor scams filed with BBB Scam Tracker;

• Scammers increasingly rely on fake websites, often stealing pictures and listing information from licensed and legitimate sellers;

• Classic car buyers were targeted with low prices and promises to deliver rare cars across the country; and

• Fake vehicle history reports rose over the last three years.

While median losses are smaller, consumers reported personal data theft as a part of these scams.

Statistics (reported to BBB from 2021-2023):

• Close to 700 BBB Scam Tracker reports on fraudulent vehicle sales, escrow scams and fake vehicle reports;

• $12,600 median loss in fraudulent vehicle sale and escrow scams; and

• $45 median loss in fake vehicle report scams.

BBB has examined virtual vehicle vendor scams in-depth since 2020. But scammers continue to change their tactics. The losses in these scams can be enormous.

BBB tips for those looking to buy a car online:

• Do not purchase a vehicle report on your own vehicle for an interested buyer;

• View a vehicle in-person if possible, or send someone you trust;

• Be wary of too-good-to-be-true prices;

• Opt for vehicle pick up over delivery whenever possible;

• Resist high-pressure sales tactics urging quick action; and

• Use only approved Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) lookup websites.

Visit to check out a business or register a complaint, BBB Scam Tracker to report a scam and for more on this and other scams.