ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - People are buying cars from an Albuquerque car dealer's website. But, while the website is real, the dealership does not exist.
Just a few strokes of the keyboard opens up an entire world of cars for sale online.
Tell them what kind of car you're looking for and these websites will find you a long list of dealers ready to sell you one.
Consumers love it and so do car dealers.
"The system of online shopping, just like anything else is a phenomenal resource, no matter what business you're in," Derek Marker with the NM Independent Auto Dealers Association said.
However, one couple from Canada found out the hard way that seeing is not always believing.
They found a Cadillac Escalade on this website for Alvarez Auto Sales in Albuquerque, paid a large deposit on it and flew to Albuquerque to pick it up.
The couple then took a cab from the Sunport straight to the address for Alvarez Auto Sales. What they found instead was the Outwest Auto Corral.
There is no Alvarez Auto Sales at the address and there has not been for years.
The owner of Outwest Auto Corral did nothing wrong and is on the board of the Independent Auto Dealers Association. But the crooks in this case did their homework; if customers go online they will see the Google street view still shows Alvarez as the auto dealer.
"[it's} blatant fraud, it's a scam," Marker said.
Derek Marker heads the Independent Dealers Association in New Mexico.
He says in a 26 hour period this week, 15 buyers fell for the same scheme with fake dealer websites like this one.
All of them paid thousands of dollars in deposits to the so-called "dealers" by wire transfer.
"You may think you are sending money to john smith in Los Angeles, California when in fact any person anywhere in the world can pick up that cash online," BBB Executive Assistant Connie Quillen said.
So customers should do their homework to make sure your dream car does not turn out of be a real steal.
The Alvarez Auto Sales website has now been banished from all those major car-buying sites that send you to local dealership sites.
If you are sent online to a dealership you do not recognize, check with the Better Business Bureau or the attorney general's office to make sure it's legitimate.
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