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Car Dealership Scam Warning

According to the latest news, some car dealerships are resorting to a particular scam to sell more cars recently, that has car shoppers fuming and going to the government. Find out which scam some dealerships are resorting to right now and what you can do about it.

Scams, Scams, and More Scams

In previous articles we’ve reported a number of scams that some car dealerships use to help move their inventory at the cost of your wallet. Scams that typically involve padding of repair bills, shoddy repair scams, flipping flood-damaged car scams, MSRP window sticker scams, also the worst and possibly oldest one of them all---odometer scams on newer model cars and leased cars that includes Certified Previously Owned (CPO) scams.

Current Scam Going on Right Now

While you may fall victim to any of the above scams that you discovered afterward in your used or relatively new car once you got home, the latest scam occurs even before you arrive at a dealership---the good ol’ dependable bait and switch scam.

According to a recent Automotive News report, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is warning car buyers to be aware of dealers who are not accurately advertising their vehicle prices and/or refuse to honor those prices once you’ve arrived at the dealership for what you thought was a good deal.

In fact, approximately 74 such complaints have been filed in the past year stating that some dealerships were advertising specific prices online, but then denying them once interested car buyers got to the store. Other complaints also include car dealerships not honoring the buyout provisions in lease agreements to lessees who want to buyout and then either keep or resell their leased vehicles. Of particular interest may be those leased vehicle models that offer the most profit in buyback deals.

"Purchasing a vehicle is a significant financial investment for many individuals and families," Healey said in a statement. "After a surge in complaints to my office, we're making sure consumers are aware of their rights under the law, and that auto dealerships know our office will take action against these deceptive sales tactics," Automotive News writes in their report on the problem.

Scam Protections for Car Buyers

So what the rights of car buyers? In an Attorney General Advisory on Automobile Advertising, Pricing and Lease Buyouts, the laws state that:

• Automobile dealers must clearly and conspicuously disclose all included and excluded charges in any advertised price of a vehicle as well as the expiration date of any advertised price, and it is unfair or deceptive to refuse to sell a vehicle for the price advertised.

• It is unfair or deceptive for automobile dealers to make misrepresentations, including misrepresentations about the value of a vehicle by, among other things, posting or advertising inaccurate prices or prices they will not honor.

• Automobile dealerships have a contractual obligation to honor the terms of any contract with a consumer regarding the lease of a vehicle, including a consumer’s right to purchase the vehicle under the contract, and failure to do so may constitute an unfair or deceptive act or practice.

• Automobile dealerships must comply with existing statutes, rules, regulations, and laws, meant for the protection of the public’s health, safety or welfare that is intended to provide protection to consumers.

• Automobile dealerships are public accommodations and may not discriminate against consumers based on their race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or ancestry.

For a complete listing of the above including the Code references to each protection, click on this link.

What To Do if You Fell For This Scam

If you fell for this scam---whether or not it resulted in you buying a car---you can go online and type in the keywords “Report a Scam Attorney General (your state)” for help in reporting the incident and put a stop to these type of bait and switch scams by car dealerships. If possible, capture or print out a screen shot of the online offer as proof of the incident.

And finally…

For additional used car articles related to the topic, be sure to check out the following linked articles “Consumer Reports Recommends Avoiding These Used Car Models This Summer; and, “Avoid Lube Center Scams With This Mechanic’s Step by Step DIY Oil and Filter Change Demo.”

Timothy Boyer is Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily automotive-related news.

Photo by Dieny Portinanni on Unsplash


Mahomed Altaf Omar (not verified)    October 1, 2021 - 2:19AM

Good on paper. Reality is very different. Dealer delivered a car model that i had clearly verbally informed the salesman was not the model i wanted. I had requested information on an ad for a different model but on my my first telephone contact informed the salesman that was not the model i wanted to buy. All negotiations dine on line and all paperwork submitted to me did not show the model.
Having received the vehicle via home delivery on Saturday evening the car was parked in the garage and put on charge. On Monday morning there was very small improvement so took it to a public charger and was surprise that 100% charge did not meet my expected mileage. Contacted the salesman via email and phone but did not hear back until Wednesday. Promised an investigation and was offered a reversal of transaction which i accepted. A little while later that was withdrawn and was informed to deal with their attorney.
Contacted the manufacturer who put me in contact with the Regional Manager who upon hearing my story promised that he would contact Detroit. Followed ip with the fact that the dealer was a franchisee and there was nothing that they could do although the dealer had lied to him about matters that were never discussed.
So the story here is that all these regulations look great on paper but the dealer manufacturer relationship is to sell cars any which way and tough luck for the customer who was swindled.

Timothy Boyer    October 1, 2021 - 10:18AM

Man...that sucks! Sorry to hear about it. Yeah, I can see the Regional manager saying that there is nothing he can do about it (to make his life easier)---but he could do something in spite of the original dealer being a franchisee, there are rules they have to follow. The problem is that without a paper trail, it becomes a I-said/he-said kind of thing. An expensive recourse is to lawyer-up; however, persistence is what I rely on whenever I feel like I am getting the run-around. One maxim in life is that managers do not like to get bad attention from their managers when their manager's life is made less pleasant. In other words, send daily letters and e-mails to the corporate office until someone above the Regional manager gets sick of it ( or worries HIS manager/VP gets wind of it and starts feeling inconvenienced) and starts dumping on his or her lower level manager---that's what they do to make their lives easier. I know that this sounds vindictive, but when dealing with UPS for example about a lost package last year and refusal of insurance refund from the store manager/franchisee, that's what it took (about 4 months afterward) to get restitution. I believe that a lot of these guys rely on making it difficult for you until you go away. Take good care of the car as you use it; document as best as you can the details of the transaction with dates and names; create 5 different letters of complaint and rotate through them daily as you send a letter and e-mail a day and repeat weekly. You can also send copies to your local news station that might be looking for a local scam warning news piece. In other words, show them you will not go away and eventually you might receive some satisfaction from it. Make the whole process as effortless as possible on your part and have a beer in the meantime. Good luck!