Auto transport scams are very high in the era of the internet. These scams have also aggravated customers towards legitimate online businesses. In the 1990s, there were a few online companies. Most companies operate online today. The online market helped companies in reducing price and increasing sales. Now, scam websites are arising with easy internet accessibility.
In most transport scams, a customer searches the internet for an auto transport company and finds a legitimate looking transport company website. The customer requests for an estimate and receives a reasonable quote. With the reasonable price, the customer is convinced to pay for the service. Then, the transport truck does not arrive on the day of pick up. Also, the customer does not hear from the transport company again.
There are many easy ways to protect yourself from car shipping scams. Here are a few steps to ensure a company is legitimate.
- Browse their website: Scammers build their website in a rush with a low budget. This is evident with grammatical mistakes. To err is human but a legitimate company would review their website’s content. Also scam sites usually only have a couple of pages with on contact information. Some sites may have a listed business email. With auto transport scam websites, the company’s will have a motor carrier number (MC Number). Legitimate transport companies will post their MC# to their sites for the customers. Also, a legitimate company always provides legal information on each page of their website.
- Check for contact information: Transport companies communicate on the phone cause it’s a cheap, easy and fast mode. Often, scammers will not list a phone number or will provide a phone number that doesn’t work. If you are unsure of the legitimacy of a company with a phone number on their website, a phone call for information about the service and the company will be helpful. If the employee is against revealing motor carrier number, license information, or any other public-knowledge information, then the customer should not do business with that company. Transport companies will send emails from their website. For example, XYZ auto transport will be sent an email from support@XYZ.com. Other emails that don’t seem legitimate needs to be questioned by the customer. Also, look for the address of the shipping company on the website. If there is an address, look up that company on Google Maps to see if it is true. A legitimate company will have their address on Google Maps.
- Check for company reviews: Many great websites have American auto shipping reviews. These websites are a valuable resource to legitimate businesses and customers. The reviews are written by past customers of the company. Review websites also let the company provide their side of a negative review. This offers complete transparency to existing and new potential customers. Usually, scam websites have minimal positive reviews. They are written by the website owner. They also have many negative reviews that are unanswered. Reliable companies mostly have positive reviews with a few negative reviews that are replied to by the company. This confirms the shipping company’s activity and communication with their customers.
- Check the payment method: Scammer website will ask you to pay for their shipping service via Western Union or Moneygram. This is a wire transfer which makes it non-traceable. The recipient can withdraw for cash immediately. Sellers who mark their price below the market price could be scammers. Legitimate companies ask to make transactions via bank accounts, PayPal, etc. Bank transactions are easily traceable in case of fraud.
- Inspect your vehicle: Your automotive should be delivered exactly how it was picked up. Before the pickup, inspect your vehicle throughout. Make a note or take photos of existing damages. And also note down the mileage. Mistakes are prone to happen but check the company’s policy for reporting losses and reimbursement for the repairs. This will help the customer to know what to do in case something goes wrong. When the vehicle is delivered, inspect it throughout for damages or signs of being used. If you have doubts about your car being used, do not accept the delivery bill and insist on speaking to a manager who can further answer your questions.
- Check for Licenses: All auto transporters need to be registered with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA). Transport companies are required to have a motor carrier number. A transport company without an MC Number do not have the authorization to operate. This information can be found on the website. If it is not listed on the website, potential customers can contact the company and get this information. This information can be verified by looking up the MC# on the FMSCA’s official website.
- Check for Direct Carriers: A direct carrier is a transporter who ship automobiles from the pickup location to delivery location using trucks and drivers. These companies do not use the third party to transport vehicles. A broker is mediators between customers and transporters. They have a contract with the lowest price transporter. Brokers charge the customers a standard price. And the difference is pocketed by the broker. If a company does not have their own shipping vehicles and drivers, beware of shipping with them.
- Speak to your driver: Transport companies list the name of the drive with contact information when customers use their service. Customers can contact the driver before paying a deposit to make sure the legitimacy and confirmation of delivery after pickup. It is beneficial to have the driver’s information so that you can contact them directly in case of any delays.
- Read the transport contract: When you have found a reliable company, it is essential to read and understand each detail of the shipping contract. Signing the contract without reading the terms can subject customers to additional fees, unawareness of damage and reimbursement, etc. In case of losses, your vehicle insurance will not cover transport damage. You should not sign the contract until each term about liability, limitations, exemptions, and costs. If the terms and conditions are confusing, ask the company representative to help you understand. If a clause seems sketchy or the representative refuses to answer, customers should consider this a red flag. Read the transport contract thoroughly. Be confident about the company, their service, and their policy before signing the contract.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau: Reputable companies will become members of the Better Business Bureau. Companies are not required to be a member of the BBB. This Bureau is an excellent way for transport companies to verify their legitimacy for potential customers. The bureau maintains a record of activity, contact information, complaints, and years of operation. The shipping industry is very competitive. Usually, shipping startups don’t last the first year. Customers are advised to use shipping companies that have served for several years. If a shipping company seems suspicious or dishonest, do not use their services for shipping your automobiles.
In conclusion, customers looking for shipping services should use legitimate and reputed companies that have been around for many years. Use transport companies that have the required licenses, registration, and insurance with a market standard quote. According to their requirements, customers can request quotes from the transport companies in person, over the phone or online. Customers can also inquire for recommendations with acquaintances who have used shipping companies successfully.
Beware of scams!