Auto shipping was once reserved for auto dealerships and the wealthy. However, the number of people who can afford car shipping has rapidly increased over the years. Unfortunately, so has the number of fraudulent companies seeking easy money from naive consumers. Everybody enjoys getting good deals especially on expensive services such as car shipping. However, a low price isn't always a bargain. Sometimes a low price, especially one that seems too good to be true, is a sign of fraud. However, there are several steps you can take as an informed consumer to avoid becoming a phoney car shipper's next victim.
Car shipping scams take advantage of both the consumer's natural desire for good bargains on expensive services and the proliferation of the internet. In the most common scam, the consumer performs an internet search for auto shipping companies and clicks on a link. He finds what looks like the website for a legitimate shipping company. The consumer asks for a quote for shipping a car and receives what she thinks is a reasonable bargain and instructions for payment. The consumer sends the payment and then waits for a truck that never arrives.
Avoid doing business with any company that wants your payment sent through a wire transfer service such as Western Union. Legitimate companies ask for checks or credit cards, not wire transfers. Any company that asks for a wire transfer is likely planning to take your money and run.
Carefully examine the company's website. Look out for spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and typographical errors. Real companies generally avoid having a large number of mistakes on their websites. Websites with multiple spelling mistakes or grammatical errors were probably hastily put up by a fraudulent company.
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 this number through their websites or representatives while frauds will either hide their number or pass off a fake or expired number. Remember, companies without an MC Number are not authorized to operate in the United States. Investigate the company's credentials through the Better Business Bureau or the FMCSA's Safety and Fitness Electronic Records website.
A legitimate auto shipping company will include both an email address and a toll-free or local telephone number on their website. Fraudulent companies either list a non-working phone number or don't have a phone number at all. Search the website for the company's physical address and then verify the address with a service such as Google maps. If the company is legitimate, Google maps will locate its address.
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Perform an internet search for the company's name. Unless the company recently opened, a Google or Yahoo search for a legitimate business will return several hits that reference that company's name. An internet search for a fraudulent company will return few hits.
Communicate with the Company
Communicating directly with the company is one of the best ways of avoiding scams. Make your initial contact with the company over the telephone rather than through email. When you speak with the company's representative, ask questions about the business. Be polite, you're not giving him the third-degree. Some important information includes the company's MC Number and other credentials, the type of haulers the company uses, the type of hauler they recommend for your vehicle, the number of people employed by the company, the number of locations the company has and the number of trucks available on each of the company's routes. Ask the company representative for the names and contact information for past customers that you call for references, legitimate companies generally comply with such requests. Contact as many references as you can and ask them about their experience with the company's performance.
Everybody wants a good deal on services such as auto shipping. However, don't let your natural desire for a good bargain override your common sense. Pay attention to details about the company you are doing business with such as the quality of their website, their method of payment and their credentials and you can avoid falling prey to a car shipping scam.