TORONTO, Jan. 8, 2013 /CNW/ - OMVIC, the regulator of motor vehicle sales in Ontario, is warning car buyers of yet another online scam targeting Canadians.
According to Carey Smith, OMVIC Director of Investigations, Husen Original Autos advertises on online vehicle marketplaces such as AutoTrader.ca, Wheels.ca, E-bay.ca, Craigslist.ca and Kijiji.ca, offering high-end late model vehicles at prices that are often "too good to be true". Smith explains this phony dealer's website claims to be based in Phoenix AZ, however the business does not actually exist: "According to Arizona authorities Husen is not licensed and they have no physical presence. Their advertised address is actually a retired fire hall, now used as a community service building". Husen Original Autos appears to be the latest incarnation of Ambient Auto Center and Sprint Luxury Auto. Both were phony dealerships supposedly based in Oklahoma. According to Smith, "Husen's website looks nearly identical to Ambient's and Sprint's and their methods of operation appear to be the same."
Terry O'Keefe, OMVIC Manager of Communications, says these frauds specifically target Canadians and are very sophisticated. "The websites are very professional and contain extensive inventory and convincing customer testimonials; they've even created recommendations on referral websites and forums. We know of five victims of the Ambient scam so far: those victims lost nearly $200,000. We expect there are many more victims yet to come forward". Unfortunately because of the multi-jurisdictional and international nature of these scams, investigations and prosecutions are difficult and expensive. "The scammers know this - it's why they are targeting Canadians" states O'Keefe.
OMVIC strongly cautions Ontarians considering buying vehicles remotely, whether privately or from a dealer in another state or province, and offers the following tips:
- Don't do it - consider that the savings are probably not worth the gamble, especially in light of the rapid proliferation of these scams.
- Beware of a price that is considerably lower than the average market price. If a price seems too good to be true it should be seen as a warning, not an opportunity.
- Travel to see the vehicle - don't rely on pictures or a convincing website. If a buyer can't travel to see the vehicle, hire an appraiser or mechanic to inspect the vehicle. They can ensure the vehicle actually exists and the seller is who they claim to be.
- Check with state or provincial regulators/authorities to ensure dealers are licensed.
- Purchase a vehicle history report for the vehicle - don't simply rely on a report provided by the seller: they can be altered.
- Don't wire money or provide a credit card without first doing all homework.
O'Keefe wants Ontarians to know "they are only protected by Ontario's consumer protection laws and only have access to the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund when they buy from an Ontario-registered dealer. If consumers buy privately or outside the province, and something goes wrong, they are basically on their own. It's simply not worth the risk."
The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) administers and enforces the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA) on behalf of the Ministry of Consumer Services. OMVIC maintains a fair and informed vehicle sales marketplace by regulating dealers and salespersons, regularly inspecting Ontario's 8,000 dealerships and 24,000 salespeople, maintaining a complaint line for consumers and conducting investigations and prosecutions. OMVIC is also responsible for administering the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund on behalf of its Board of Trustees.
About Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund:
The Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund is fully funded by Ontario's registered motor vehicle dealers and provides compensation to consumers who have a valid claim against an Ontario-registered dealer. Qualifying consumers may be eligible to receive up to $45,000 for each valid claim to the Compensation Fund. Since its inception on July 1, 1986, the Compensation Fund has paid out over $5 million to consumers. In 2011, the Compensation Fund celebrated 25 years of providing advanced consumer protection to Ontarians.
SOURCE: Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council - OMVIC
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