Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich today announced that motor vehicle complaints were the highest consumer complaint activity reported to his office in 2016 – approximately 1,900 complaints last year. In order to protect Arizonans, and in recognition of National Car Care Month this April, Brnovich is sharing common auto scams and resources to safeguard Arizonans from deceptive practices and unfair dealings.
“Education is the key to preventing additional motor vehicle scams in our state,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Helping Arizonans understand common auto scams, their rights if they’ve been wronged, and what support is available, will help reduce the ability of con artists to hurt hardworking individuals and families.”
Some of the top auto scams to avoid include:
- Request for Deposit: Be wary if someone asks you to make a deposit into an escrow account not of your choosing, or requests wire transfer funds. Both are big red flags. Unless a seller agrees to use an established and verified online escrow service approved by both parties, walk away.
- Disappearing Trade In: Make selling your car and buying a new car two separate transactions to protect yourself from your trade-in’s value getting lost in the maze of new car paperwork.
- Bad Credit: Don’t let dealers use actual or fabricated “bad credit” against you in a deal. Know your credit score and get pre-approved for financing prior. If the dealership can beat the interest rate of your pre-approved loan, great. Otherwise, stick with pre-approved financing.
- Title Washing: Always get a vehicle-history report from CarFax, Experian Automotive or other reputable source prior to purchase. Although not 100% guaranteed, these typically highlight possible odometer fraud; past fire, flood and accident damage; or whether a rebuilt or salvage title was ever issued for the vehicle in an attempt to “wash” its history away.
- Incorrect Mileage: Unscrupulous sellers may try to tamper with the odometer, so check the vehicle history report. If there is a large discrepancy, it’s best to cancel any deal.
- False Financing Application: Double-check your written financial application to ensure information is correct and the dealership hasn’t inflated income numbers to get you a loan outside of your price range. Take extra time to review thoroughly, and never be quick to sign.
- Stolen Goods: Before buying a used car, do a VIN search to see if there is reported theft. A dishonest seller may have had the title reissued to hide their crime.
There are several ways to avoid these and other motor vehicle scams. These include:
- Don’t wire money or accept checks
- Never buy unseen or have a vehicle shipped
- Always insist on meeting a buyer/seller face-to-face
- Complete the transaction at a bank or police station
- Have the car inspected by a trusted mechanic. Typically $100, it can save you thousands in the long run
- Get pre-approved for financing beforehand and compare to the dealer’s offer so you’re educated on your options
- Never accept spot delivery (taking the car off the lot without financing in place). Later the dealership may threaten to report the vehicle stolen if you don’t agree to their payment terms
- Get a written contract that includes all prices and financing details, and then spend time analyzing it. Don’t rush to make a purchase or sell
For more consumer protection tips and news on local scams, visit the Arizona Attorney General’s Office website at www.azag.gov.
If you believe you have been the victim of auto-related or any other type of consumer fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6504, or outside the metro areas at (800) 352-8431. Bilingual consumer protection staff is available to assist.
Consumers can also file complaints online by visiting the Attorney General’s website at https://www.azag.gov/complaints/consumer.