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April 10, 2013     Sentinel Tribune
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April 10, 2013

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SENTINEL TRIBUNE VIEWPOINT Wednesday, April 10, 2013 Page 4 BBB Warns of = Fa ke Auto " Dealer Websites our E.. (BBB, is urging consumers con- these findings, f Jr-r " [   1,, _. '['' sidering an online car purchase to One new 'twist' in the 3rand be extra cautious following three Forks case was that the con;umer [ \\; | V[j. ing to be located in North Dakota. Cars.corn, a legitimate auto adver- This scheme was first brought to tising and research site. A contact light by the BBB in our area in late claiming to be a private individual 2011 -when another bogus online indicated she was consigning her entity claimed to be operating an auto dealership in Southern Minnesota - and it appears to be spreading. "Buying a car online calls for a considerable amount of due dili- gence," said Steve Fair, Auto Industry Liaison for the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "But even as consumers are doing their homework on a particular vehicle, they should research whether the 'dealer' itself is what it seems -- particularly when pur- chasing from an unfamiliar dealer- ship in another part of the coun- try." In the three most recent cases investigated by the BBB, the 'hook' used to entice customers was similar - authentic-looking used auto dealer websites featur- ing high-end luxury cars such as Feiraris and Bentleys, often priced thousands of dollars below typical book value. Each site claimed a physical address in North Dakota, and provided one or more North Dakota phone numbers for people to contact. Last October, a Connecticut consumer alerted the BBB to a website purporting to be 'Wieser Autos', on 7th St S in Fargo (this is not to be confused with Wieser Auto Sales, a legitimate used car dealer in Wahpeton, ND). The BBB's investigation revealed that no such dealer was licensed in No..Dakota,and:that many of the auto. listings were lifl'i'm online invento- ti; . rms of legitimate car dealers around the country. The Fargo address the phony company claimed actually belonged to an unsuspecting business not con- nected with the shady website. The BBB immediately contact- ed the web provider hosting the bogus website, reporting its find- ings and urging the provider to suspend the site. The website was taken down within a few days, although the BBB subsequently learned of a victim in California who sometime in the weeks prior had wired away over $23,000 to scammers for a truck he never received. In November, the BBB received a complaint from an Illinois con- sumer about a website claiming to be 'Golden Motor Group' on Morrison Ave in Bismarck. The BBB once again determined that listed vehicles actually belonged to other, legitimate dealerships, and that the address listed was a rented storage locker. The BBB was again able to have that web- site shut down. Unfortunately, the consumer who reported the seam had already wired away $32,000 for a sports car that was never delivered. The most recent example of this seam came in February, when a consumer in Hawaii contacted the BBB about a website purporting to represent 'Nationwide Motor Center,' with an address on North 4th St in Grand Forks. Once again, truck due to 'financial hardship,' and urged the consumer to contact 'Nationwide' about the purchase. Thankfully, the consumer's instincts told him to cut off com- munication with the 'consignor,' and he alerted the BBB. In light of the spread of phony auto dealer websites, the BBB offers the following tips to con- sumers considering an auto pur- chase online: *If the deal sounds toO good to be true, it probably is. In each example of this scheme, car. were advertised at prices substattially below book value for comptrable vehicles. Use online resc.urces such as Kelley Blue Book to get a sense of how much you might realistically expect to pay for a used car. *Research the dealer, just as surely as you'd research the car. Start by visiting, to veri- fy that the business has a listing and complete contact information. Ensure that the business is licensed as an auto dealer in the state. In North Dakota, dealer licensing is administered through the Department of Transportation. In Minnesota, the Department of Public Safety handles dealer licensing, and maintains a 'Dealer Lookup' page on its website *Do a little Internet 'detective work'. If the vehicle listing pro- vides a VIN number, do a fimple Google search to see if that same listingappears elsewher on the web. If you see it listed in the inventory of another dealership elsewhere in the country, you'll know something is amiss. *Watch for geographic and other visual inconsistencies. Many of the vehicle photos on the three websites referenced above clearly showed palm trees and mountain ranges in the background, some- thing not typically seen if a vehi- cle is photographed and available for sale in North Dakota. Other photos were clearly stock images, and not actual vehicle photos. *If a purported dealer attempts to rush you into sending money to 'hold' a car or hesitates when you ask if you can see or inspect the vehicle, move on. The BBB urges consumers not to send money for an online vehicle purchase without having an opportunity to see the vehicle first, or to have it inspect- ed by a third-party inspector of your choosing. The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regula- tion, the highest standards of busi- ness ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general pub- lic. We are open 8 a.m. to $ p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the BBB at or 65 [-699- 1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222. Buy, Sell, or Rent in the Classified ads Sentinel Tribune Ph. 274-6136 1-800-410-1859 Sentinel Tribune (ISSN 8750-3905) Thomas Merchant Managing Editor Junette Merchant Office & Production Joan Spielman Ad Representative & Office Published every Wednesday at Westbrook, Minnesota 56183 Periodicals Postage Paid at Westbrook, Minnesota 56183 SUBSCRIPTION PRICE FOR THE SENTINEL TRIBUNE WILL BE: In the following counties: Cottonwood, Redwood, and Murray $42.00 per year. Elsewhere in Minnesota $46.00 per year. Out of e state $52.00 per year. Canada and foreign countries inquire at the Sentinel Tribune Office. If wrong amount is submitted subscrip- tion will be pro rated accordingly. AI Ba00. . . "Stories from the Cave" Goodness gracious! What are you doing down there? One day God looked down at Earth and saw all the bad behavior taking place. He sent an angel to Earth and asked him to bring back a report on the conduct of humans. When the angel returned, he told God, "It is bad on Earth. Ninety percent of the people are misbehav- ing. Only ten percent are being good." God considered the news and decided to send another angel to Earth for a second opinion. When that angel returned to Heaven, she said to God, "It's true. The Earth is in decline. Ninety percent are mis- behaving, ten percent are being good." God wasn't pleased. He emailed the ten percent who were being good and offered them encourage- ment to remain steadfast in their good work. Do youknow what the email said? No? I was just asking. I didn't : get one either. I was at a meeting recently when someone complained to all with working ears about how unfair life is. You would have thought it was his birthday party and someone else was blowing out the candles. He moaned, "Why is this hap- pening to me? I've been good." He was feeling that way because the March Madness basketball tournament was not going as he had filled in the brackets. He was unhappy because he would not be winning the contest. We all feel that life is unfair on occasion. We shouldn't. That's an exercise in futility, a pointless endeavor. Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good per- son is like expecting a bull to not charge because you are a vegetari- an. I saw some good people in action recently and I hope that all the angry bulls will cut them some slack. Those good people were vol- unteer firefighters. The night was wearing basic black. There was a fire in a chemical plant in the frigid darkness of a small Minnesota town. The mas- sive flames were more chilling than the temperature. It was the terrible triplets of crummy hours, nasty weather, and horrible fire. An alarm went out to all the fire departments in the area. When the first volun- teer fire fighters arrived, the owner of the chemical company rushed over to them and said, "All my secret formulas are in the vault in my office. Without them, I am ruined. They must be saved. I will give $50,000 to the fire department that brings them out intact. You must help me." It was an enticing offer, but the roaring blaze held the firefighters at bay. More fire departments arrived. The desperate business owner increased his offer to $100,000 to the fire department that saved his secret formulas that would, in turn, save his business. It didn't look good. It appeared that the formulas would be rescued when pigs flew and that wasn't likely to occur. Then swine became airborne. From the distance, a lone siren was heard. It was a welcome sound even if it was off-key. The fire truck came into view. It was from a small, nearby city, and was, by far, the oldest truck in the county. The ancient automobile kicked up its heels like a calf in a pasture. It sped past all the newer fire trucks and their crews Without slowing down, the truck drove straight into the middle of the inferno. Walls fell from the collision. The other fire- fighters watched in both amaze- ment and admiration as the fire- fighters jumped out of the old truck in the middle of the fire and fought the conflagration on all sides. It was a performance and effort that no one present had ever witnessed before. Within a short time, the heroes had extinguished the fire and had saved the secret formulas. The grateful chemical company owner presented that volunteer fire department with the reward check for $100,000. The business would survive and thrive. Scoop, a local newspaper report- er, rushed over to interview the fire chief. "What are you going to do with all that money?" the reporter asked. "Well," said the chief, "the first thing we're going to do is fix the brakes on that truck." Today, Timmy would use his cellphone to call a volunteer fire department, saving Lassie the dis- agreeable task of rescuing him after he'd fallen into a hole in the out- house--again. We aren't capable, despite our claims, of being able to hang the moon, but I am so thankful that there are people willing to hold the ladder. My mother believed that we are here to help others. Vo!unteer fire fighters believe that, too. A1Batt 2013 71622 325 St. 1-1, MN 56042 \\; __ -,r=r=-,! , ........... "Snowbirds" may put their paper on hold at no extra charge while they are gone, or pay $5.00 extra to have it mailed out of state. Missed copies cannot be furnished because the cost of mailing single copies is about $2.00. Any request for a back copy must include $3.00. Newstand price is $1.00 per copy. 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