BBB: Vehicle sales, stretching gas money

August 31, 2011

In this fraud, scammers attempt to sell vehicles they do not own. They make the offers attention grabbing and attractive by advertising vehicles at prices below book value. Often the reason for the supposed-bargain price is the need to sell the vehicle because of a quick move for work or military deployment.

Perpetrators may claim they are short on time, thus unable to meet the consumer in person or allow time for vehicle inspection. To make the deal appear legitimate, the scammer instructs the victim to send full or partial payment to a third-party agent via a wire transfer payment service and to fax the payment receipt to the seller as proof of payment. The scammer pockets the payment but does not deliver the vehicle.

"Scammers are getting better at making their schemes look legitimate," said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Chicago and northern Illinois. "It's important to be aware of some red flags that indicate you may be dealing with a con artist."

The BBB warns automotive shoppers to exercise due diligence before engaging in transactions to purchase vehicles advertised online. In particular, shoppers should be cautious of the following:

Sellers who push for speedy completion of the transaction and request payments via quick wire transfer payment systems.

Sellers who refuse to meet in person, or refuse to allow the buyer to physically inspect the vehicle before the purchase.

Transactions in which the seller and vehicle are in different locations, the seller may claim to have been transferred for work reasons, deployed by the military, or moved because of a family circumstance, and could not take the vehicle with them.

Vehicles advertised at well below their market value. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you have witnessed this behavior or fallen victim to this type of scam, please file a complaint at and visit our new scam source section at

How to Stretch Your Gas Dollars this Summer

Gasoline prices have risen well above $4.00 a gallon in most every state across the country. The average U.S. family with two drivers is now paying nearly $1,000 more annually for gas than they were just two years ago according to a recent study by research gurus, Sperling's BestPlaces. Although there are practical steps you can take to increase gas mileage, Better Business Bureau warns consumers to be wary of gas-saving claims that empty your wallet, instead of saving you fuel.

Many websites make unbelievable claims for various after market automotive devices (fuel-line magnets, air bleed devices and retrofit gadgets) and oil and gasoline additives that supposedly increase gas mileage for automobiles. The Federal Trade Commission found many of these claims to be either false or overly exaggerated.

"Summer travelers should shop around. Nowadays, many smartphones have apps specifically for finding the cheapest gas prices in your area," said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Chicago & Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau. "You may even want to consider getting a credit card that gives you cash back bonuses on gas purchases."

Before adding any fuel savings device to your vehicle, check with your mechanic. You may end up with a voided manufacturers warranty and serious engine problems by adding after market devices to your engine. What you spend at the pump is influenced by how you drive and what type of gasoline you use to fill your tank. As we reach the peak of summer travel, here are some tips on what you can do to save fuel consumption: Choose the right octane for your car. Check your owner's manual to find out what octane your car requires. Keep in mind that the higher the octane, the higher the price.

Keep your engine tuned. Studies have shown that a poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption by as much as 10 to 20 percent depending on a car's condition. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule in your owner's manual; you will save fuel and your car will run better and last longer.

Don't let your engine run at idle any longer than necessary. An engine actually warms up faster while driving. With most gasoline engines, it is more efficient to turn off the engine than to idle for any period longer than 30 seconds.

Drive more efficiently. Stay within the posted speed limits. The faster you drive the more fuel you use. Set your cruise control on highway trips. This can help maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, reduce your fuel consumption.

Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned. Automobile manufacturers must place a label in the car stating the correct tire pressure. If the label lists a psi (pounds per square inch) range, use the higher number to maximize your fuel efficiency.

Anticipate the driving condition. Driving smoothly and steadily makes the best use of your fuel. If you can, avoid sudden acceleration or braking. Change your oil and replace air filters regularly. Clean oil reduces wear caused by friction between moving parts and removes harmful substances from the engine. Your air filter keeps impurities in the air from damaging internal engine components.

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit

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