BBB® Investigation: Virtual vehicle vendor scam reports rose in 2023

  • Share:
April 10, 2024
BBB® Investigation: Virtual vehicle vendor scam reports rose in 2023
(Santa Barbara, CA) April 4, 2024 – In 2023, virtual vehicle vendor scam reports to BBB increased as fraudsters targeted high-end classic car buyers and exploited vehicle history reports to steal money and information.
Since 2020, reports to Better Business Bureau have shown that scammers used the COVID- 19 pandemic to list non-existent vehicles of all kinds on real online marketplaces. In more recent reports, they are increasingly turning to fake websites modeled after licensed sellers. These look-a-like websites use stolen photos, contact information and even vehicle identification numbers (VIN) to fool consumers.
In “Virtual vehicle vendor scams and related fraud persist post-pandemic," Better Business Bureau examines the patterns of reports, reviews the amount of money lost and learns from those caught up in the scams to protect the public through education.

Key findings:

  • Online vehicle vendor scam reports to BBB Scam Tracker declined in 2022 but increased to new highs in 2023.
  • Buyers 45 and older accounted for more than three-quarters of all reports on virtual vehicle vendor scams filed with BBB Scam Tracker.
  • Scammers increasingly rely on fake websites, often stealing pictures and listing information from licensed and legitimate sellers.
  • Classic car buyers were targeted with low prices and promises to deliver rare cars across the country.
  • Fake vehicle history reports rose over the last three years. While median losses are smaller, consumers reported personal data theft as a part of these scams.
Statistics (reported to BBB from 2021-2023):
  • Close to 700 BBB Scam Tracker reports on fraudulent vehicle sales, escrow scams and fake vehicle reports
  • $12,600 median loss in fraudulent vehicle sale and escrow scams
  • $45 median loss in fake vehicle report scams
BBB has examined virtual vehicle vendor scams in-depth since 2020. But scammers continue to change their tactics. The losses in these scams can be enormous.

BBB tips for those looking to buy a car online:

  • Do not purchase a vehicle report on your own vehicle for an interested buyer
  • View a vehicle in-person if possible, or send someone you trust
  • Be wary of too-good-to-be-true prices
  • Opt for vehicle pick up over delivery whenever possible
  • Resist high-pressure sales tactics urging quick action
  • Use only approved Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) lookup websites
Visit to check out a business or register a complaint, BBB Scam TrackerSM to report a scam and for more on this and other scams.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. In 2018, people turned to BBB more than 173 million times for BBB Business Profiles on nearly 5.4 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at The International Association of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
ABOUT THE BBB INSTITUTE: BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (BBB Institute) is the educational foundation of the Better Business Bureau. BBB Institute works with local, independent BBBs across North America to deliver educational programs that foster a trusted marketplace by empowering consumers to take control of their purchasing decisions and avoid scams; helping businesses deliver excellent service with integrity and become integral stakeholders in their communities; and publishing research that provides critical insights for the average consumer and informs how we develop and deliver our programs. You can find more information about BBB Institute and its programs at
MEDIA CONTACTS: For more information, journalists for national media outlets should contact Rick Copelan (805-963-0833 or Journalists for local media outlets should contact their regional spokesperson (

Janet Morante, Operations and Outreach Specialist, (805) 962-5477