Better Business Bureau Northwest is warning people about a vehicle shipping scam that has cost victims thousands of dollars.
Since May 2018, BBB has received multiple Scam Tracker reports from consumers across the country who have collectively lost more than $30,000 to scammers operating under the name Elk Horn Express Transport.
BBB investigators determined that the alleged business is using the name of a company that once operated in Paul, Idaho. According to the Idaho Secretary of State and Department of Transportation, the company is no longer in business. However, consumers report they have been instructed to register at elkhornexpresstransport.com to purchase and transport vehicles they found online.
Once they have registered, they are required to wire payments for the vehicles without having the opportunity to inspect it.
One consumer told BBB he thought he was purchasing a classic car from a private seller. During the transaction, he received an email with instructions on payment. He was informed the funds would remain in an escrow account until the vehicle was delivered. He never heard back from the seller and lost $11,600 in the process.
In the most common car shipping scam, the consumer performs an internet search for auto shipping companies and clicks on a link. They find what looks like the website for a legitimate shipping company. The consumer asks for a quote for shipping a car and receives what they think is a reasonable bargain and instructions for payment. The consumer sends the payment and then waits for a truck that never arrives.
It's important to know how to choose a reputable and reliable auto transport company. Doing so will help you to avoid scams that prey on those shipping their vehicles long distances.
To help steer clear of these scams, avoid doing business with any company that wants your payment sent through a wire transfer service such as Western Union. Legitimate companies should accept credit cards or checks and paying by credit card gives added fraud protection.
Carefully examine the company's website. Look for poor grammar and typographical errors. Websites with multiple spelling mistakes or grammatical errors were probably hastily put up by a fraudulent company.
Check their license. Auto shipping companies are regulated by the United States Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and cannot operate without a valid Motor Carrier Number (MC Number). Legitimate companies will provide consumers with this number through their websites or representatives, while frauds will either hide their number or pass off a fake or expired number.
Investigate the company's credentials through the Better Business Bureau or the FMCSA's Safety and Fitness Electronic Records website.
For more tips on avoiding scams visit bbb.org/scamtips. To report a scam, visit bbb.org/scamtracker.