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Don't buy a car that doesn't exist

Posted at 6:36 PM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 21:36:10-04
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - You can buy almost anything on the internet now----and buy your way into trouble too.
Craiglist has become a popular place to buy cars but there are plenty of cases where what seemed like a great deal rolled into a rip-off.
When you get that itch for a car you might skip the car lot and shop on the internet.  
Vanessa asked us not to show her face or use her real name.  She says the deal she thought she had, ended with death threats from someone they thought was an honest seller.
"Saying, 'Don't be calling me.  Don't be bothering me.  We're a big organization.  We have people in the U.S. And Mexico.  We have your address.  We know where you live and we will kill your family."
Her husband thought he'd found a great Craigslist deal on a 2008 Toyota Tundra.
"My husband went ahead and called the number and the guy on the other side answered and he was really polite.  He did tell us he was offering us a warranty, because he had a dealership.  He even mentioned he was going to give us a contract, and a bill of sale. Everything looked legit."
She says the man told them the truck was in San Diego but for a three thousand dollar deposit he'd have it brought to Tucson.  If it passed a mechanics inspection the family would pay another six thousand to complete the sale. 
She sent the three thousand.  No one sent the truck. They probably never really had it.
When you get right down to it, there's not much to inhibit a thief from coming up to any vehicle anywhere, taking a picture and turning that into an ad and while he's at it, even going over and picking up the vehicle ID number to add an extra bit of credibility.
Vanessa says she was careful. 
"Because I was wary I asked him for the information for the dealership.  He provided that.  It was legitimate.  I went on the internet and everything came out good.  I didn't see no bad reviews, anything that gave me a red flag.  He even provided an ID with his picture.  When I went to the bank to deposit, I was still wary and I confirmed with the teller, the name, the address, even the birthday of the person. Everything matched."
Sergeant Rick Radinsky leads the Financial Crimes Division for Tucson Police.  He says, “Scammers in general---they're good at what they do."
Sergeant Radinsky says scammers know how to turn a picture of a car they never owned into a convincing ad, then make you feel confident about sending real money for a fake car.
The Sergeant says ask: why would anybody sell a real, quality vehicle really cheap.
"Why are they trying to unload this car so quick? That could be an indicator there's no car to unload."
He says something as simple as an internet search for the seller's name, phone number or the vehicle ID could turn up complaints from scam victims.
Vanessa says, “I'm still very scared.  I can't sleep at night. I had to buy a security system."
Vanessa says even if she never gets her three thousand dollars back, she hopes her experience will warn others and she'll see the man who ripped her off headed to jail.