Car Shipping Scam

The most common auto shipping scams and how to protect yourself

Auto shipping scams are prevalent nowadays, with many companies swindling a huge upfront amount from shippers through many tactics. We believe that hiring a transport company should be a stress-free job. Therefore, it’s imperative to consider many things.  When identifying a professional car shipping company, research should be your number one priority. But regarding the […]

Auto shipping scams are prevalent nowadays, with many companies swindling a huge upfront amount from shippers through many tactics. We believe that hiring a transport company should be a stress-free job. Therefore, it’s imperative to consider many things. 

When identifying a professional car shipping company, research should be your number one priority. But regarding the red flags of auto scams, some signs can be evident while others may not. This article will explain the warning signs of auto shipping scams, the types of auto scams, and how to avoid them.

The way auto shipping scams work

Due to the increasing trend of online services, if people want to buy a product or service, they first look for its information online before purchasing it. This trend is leading car shipping companies to create user-friendly and informative websites. 

However, some unscrupulous scammers are also taking advantage of this trend to commit fraud against people worldwide who want to relocate their vehicles. These auto-shipping scammers operate by copying information from legitimate shipping companies’ websites and using it on their own fake websites.

Warning signs that indicate a car shipping company is a scam

Car shipping company scam

It doesn’t take skill to copy and paste content and create a website. However, fraudsters are always experts at what they do, so getting conned is very easy if you ignore major red flags. There are many warning signs to consider in your hunt for a reliable auto transport company. 

Refuses to provide an address

The first red warning sign is when an auto shipping company refuses to provide its physical address or give you a P.O box address. A credible company will have no problem handing out their office, street, and city address. 

Asks for money upfront

Another warning sign is when an auto transport company asks for a large deposit before shipping. A legitimate company will never ask for any money until the job is done.

Issues in website

Moreover, a falsified website by a scam company will have poor grammar and design, slow loading speed, and a lack of information. In contrast, the resources of a professional car shipping company extend beyond its website. 

Negative or no reviews

If you find a reliable company, your next step should be to check its online reviews. Auto transport companies with no or few reviews or mostly negative reviews are a major red flag. 

Asks to sign a contract without viewing

If a car shipping company asks you to sign a contract without letting you see it, it’s a major red flag. You should never sign any agreement without reading it first.

Requests for a credit card or social security number

Lastly, if an auto transport company asks you to share your credit card or social security number, it’s a red alert. A legitimate company will never ask for such information.

Different types of auto shipping scams

Different types of auto shipping scams

Here are the most common types of auto shipping scams:

Bait and switch trick

The bait-and-switch trick is one of the most common types of auto shipping scams. Some shipping companies will quote you a low price initially, only to add extra costs right before transporting your vehicle. A quote that seems too good to be true indicates a bait-and-switch trick. 

The upselling scam

The upselling scam targets shippers who want to relocate their vehicles. An auto-shipping scammer will use a website to offer shipping at a very reasonable or cheap rate. They will be polite and pleasant to you when you contact their customer service. 

If you are in a rush to get things sorted, you’ll provide the scammer with your credit card details. After the fraud company picks up your car, they will suddenly change the price and will give lame excuses as reasons. But the bottom line is if you refuse to pay, they will hold your car until you pay them the increased price.

Fake buyer scam

The fake buyer scam targets people selling their vehicles. A scammer will get in touch to buy your vehicle. You’ll agree on the price, and they will send you a check covering the vehicle cost and its shipping via their chosen transport company. 

The shipping company will happen to be a hoax. In most cases, the scammer will request you to pay for shipping through untraceable options like Moneygram or Western Union. The scammer will cash the money immediately. 

After a few days, you’ll know about this scam when your original check bounces. This means your money has disappeared from your account.

Fake seller scam

The fake seller scam is when a scammer poses as a car seller. You may find the deal quite excellent as the fraudster will offer to sell you a vehicle at a price well below the market value. 

When you decide to buy the vehicle, the scammer will ask you to send the money before they ship the car. They may make excuses like the shipping agent is holding the vehicle and direct you to a fake website to verify the information. 

But in the end, the scammer will leave you waiting for the delivery of your car. You’ll lose your money but still won’t get the car.

How to avoid auto shipping scams?

There are a number of ways you can protect yourself from being the victim of auto transport scams. Here are some things to consider to ensure you choose a legitimate auto transport company:

Conduct research

Don’t base your decision to hire a shipping company based on a smooth-talking salesperson, low price, or a website with a good design. Conduct thorough research, browse around for shipping companies, and take some time to check online reviews. 

You can find reviews about auto transport companies on sites like Trustpilot and Google Reviews. Other sites with reviews include Yelp, Transport Reviews, and Better Business Bureau (BBB). 

It’s also better to check with the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMCSA) to know where your chosen car shipping company stands. However, don’t let the few complaints about a company discourage you. No one can be perfect, and there are always more people willing to complain than give compliments. 

Gather information

Once you select a company, collect as much information as possible about it. Look for the full company name, including DBA (Doing Business As), addresses, DOT and MC licensing, and phone numbers. 

Fraud, auto shipping companies, won’t have any contact information, and even if they do, it will be a non-functional email or a fake number. If there is a business address, check whether it is listed on Google Maps.

Browse websites

You can find errors, even minor ones, on any website. But legitimate companies take time to review their websites and remove errors. Also, check for SSL protocol on a website to ensure whether the website uses secure payment transfer and communication.

Assess legitimacy 

Scam car shipping companies can’t get listed with Better Business Bureau as it lists only legitimate and reputable businesses. The BBB records everything about a business, from contact information to complaints. 

You’ll also find information about how long the business has been operating and being a member of BBB.

Scrutinize payment options

Auto shipping company scams usually involve using non-traceable wire payment methods such as Moneygram or Western Union. But a legitimate company will provide you with several payment methods like a credit card, PayPal, or a cashier’s check. In case of fraud, it’s easy to trace these payment methods. 

Investigate license information

All car shipping companies have to register their business with the FMCSA. As a result, they get a motor carrier number which you can see on their website. If you cannot find it, you can contact the company and request the number. 

Once you have the number, verify it on the official FMCSA website. But if a company doesn’t have that number, it’s clear they have no authority to operate.

Ensure the company has insurance

Look for a car shipping company with its own insurance, as they can provide you with relevant coverage. Credible companies always carry insurance for different types of cargo and transport methods. This also protects your car against the carrier. 

Look into direct carriers

Always hire a direct car shipping company, as they don’t use third-party carriers. A direct carrier has its own fleet of trucks and drivers to pick up and deliver your car. It also means you’ll limit your liability with only one company.

What should you do if you are a victim of auto shipping scams?

If you find yourself dealing with a shady car shipping company or have fallen victim to a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has a whole section dedicated to getting your money back in case of fraud. 

Although the FTC doesn’t handle individual complaints, it can sue deceptive companies and help get victims’ money back. You can also contact your state Attorney General’s office, as many of them have consumer protection divisions to resolve disputes with businesses. 

Another way is to file a complaint with BBB. They will act as a mediator to resolve the dispute and may award monetary compensation to the victim. If everything else fails, share the auto shipping scams on social media and write its reviews.

The Bottom Line

While looking for a car shipping company, beware of auto transport scams. A legitimate and reputable company will always have the necessary registration, insurance, and license. It will have no upfront costs and only offer you a quote that matches the market standard. 

AFL can provide you with a free shipping estimate. With 10+ years in the shipping industry and 150,000 shipments fulfilled, ours is a professional and credible company offering local and international shipping services. 

We are a completely insured and licensed company partnered with SAKAEM logistics to provide car shipping services at competitive pricing. You’ll only need to fill out a form on our website with relevant information about your vehicle. You can also call us directly, and our expert agent will convey the necessary information. Our company will never ask for any upfront costs, nor do we have any hidden charges. You’ll only pay once we deliver your vehicle. We have only your best interests as our priority. So get your free quote today!

Auto Shipping Scams: Frequently Asked Questions

How to check for a car shipping company’s registration and licensing?

It’s a legal requirement for all vehicle shipping companies to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). When hiring a transport company to relocate your car, ask for its MC and USDOT numbers. These numbers will indicate whether the company has proper credentials or not.

How to verify an auto shipping company’s insurance?

According to the law, car shipping companies must have basic insurance. So, if you ask for insurance proof from a company, they shouldn’t hesitate to show it to you. 

Is it necessary to read the car shipping contract?

It’s recommended to read the car shipping contract to understand liabilities, limitations, and exemptions better. Reading the fine print will also prevent you from being unaware of damage reimbursement or charged additional costs.


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