SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio man is out thousands of dollars after falling victim to an online scam the Better Business Bureau San Antonio says is becoming all too common.

  • Went online to buy a Bobcat tractor
  • Credentials and VIN number appeared legitimate
  • Better Business Bureau says scammers are getting trickier

In early June, David Wieder said he went online to buy a Bobcat tractor for a project. The seller he reached out to was a person posing to be from the Dallas area.

“He was selling a tractor through a consignment dealer [named Total Auto Depot Group]. At first I had never heard of them before so I went and did some research online and they came up as this international group. They were founded in the 2000s, they had multiple locations, different phone numbers and I spoke to someone live over the phone,” Wieder said.

Wieder said the company appeared to be credible. He said they came up with the bill of sale and some other legal paperwork, all which Wieder now has in a file on his laptop.

“They provided credentials from the seller, credentials on the VIN number from the vehicle, more details on the vehicle and offered room for follow up questions. It seemed legitimate,” he said.

He would soon find out it wasn’t. The seller asked to be paid through wire transfer, a payment method Wieder said he has done before. However, a few days later the seller came back and told Wieder the money needed to be re-wired and sent to another account.

“I tried to contact the seller directly and that was a no-go. Then things got really fishy and by then the bank wasn’t able to retract the wire,” Wieder said.

This is a case the Better Business Bureau says is an emerging issue.

“Scammers are getting trickier. They’re figuring out patterns that they can duplicate or mimic over time and they’ll find one victim that falls into a trap of offering money. Usually they’ll start online through a legitimate website then they’ll move it offline very quickly and that’s where you fall deeper into a trap where they’ll use images that look real, they’ll use car buying sites that you think are buying from,” Regional Director Jason Meza said.

Following the incident, the BBB said Wieder uncovered images and phrases that mimicked other legitimate auto dealers, including fake positive reviews to give credibility to the alleged dealer he wired money to.

“I just want to get the word out whose buying anything online to be very careful. Take a step back and maybe verify it with a friend or a family member before you take that leap, especially on a larger purchase,” Wieder said.

Tips the BBB recommends include:

  • Ask for the VIN and check vehicle history reports
  • If the deal sounds too good to be true, pass on it
  • Speak with the seller by phone
  • Look for poor grammar and typographical errors
  • Pay by credit card in case you need to challenge the payment

Meza said the BBB has not completed the initial investigation into the incident. However, several variations of “Total Auto Depot Group” exist on including “Auto Depot Inc.”

If you believe you are being scammed, contact the BBB immediately.