New complaints filed against online vehicle auction sites

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Better Business Bureau is seeing an increase in complaints and has issued a warning to be careful before bidding on anything or transferring money, especially for a big-ticket item, in online auctions.

Terry and Debbra Meade in Wisconsin bought an RV using online auction site “Inline Repo,” supposedly based in Indianapolis.

They wired $28,000, but the Meades say their RV never showed up.

“Our money is gone,” Terry said.

After bringing you the Meades story in December, we heard from Rick and Charene Wigton from the California Bay Area.

They offered $24,501 on the same vehicle as the Meades, the 2007 Fleetwood Discovery.

“It looked totally legit,” Charene said.

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The Wigtons say Inline Repo never delivered their vehicle.

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Patrick Giraudi from Burbank, California says the same thing happened to him when he used Inline Repo to bid on a Forest River RV.

“I lost $20,300,” Patrick said. “It’s a lot of

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Dwayne Bailey from Alabama used Inline Repo to bid on a John Deere tractor.

“We wired them $24,300,” Dwayne said.

Dwayne said his tractor never arrived.

“I offered to go get it and they said I couldn’t do it, and that’s when I realized I’d been taken,” Dwayne said. . “I tried to get the money back and it was too late.”

All of these consumers say they contacted law enforcement about Inline Repo, including the FBI.

“This country needs to shut down these kinds of people,” Dwayne said. “You have the average person who has worked their whole life, saved all their money to buy equipment.”

Consumers are frustrated by the FBI’s lack of response.

“It looks like someone should get in on it and it’s not,” said Rick Wigton. “We have contacted them and have had no response.”

WRTV Investigates called and emailed Inline Repo, but their phone number and email are not working.

WRTV also stopped at the company’s address listed on the company’s website, 301 E. Market St. in Indianapolis.

This address is actually the downtown Cummins building, and the owner of the building says Inline Repo was never located in the building.

In fact, WRTV Investigates did some checks and found that Inline Repo is not registered to do business in the state of Indiana nor does it have an auctioneer license in Indiana.

The Better Business Bureau currently has an alert on Inline Repo.

The company’s domain name was registered in Iceland in September 2021, records show.

As of November, the website – https://www.inlinerepo.com – no longer exists.

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“They’re very advanced in the way they do things,” Patrick said. “The web design, the images, the way they have all the information.”

Consumers are concerned about the emergence of new vehicle auction websites, such as Auction the Best or Auct Best LLC, supposedly based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Records show that the website’s domain name was also registered in Iceland, and the AuctBest website contains some of the images and descriptions used as the Inline Repo, including the 2007 Fleetwood find that caught the attention of Meades and the Wigtons.

“It’s the same format, same wording, same questions and answers to all of this,” Rick said.

WRTV Investigates called Auction the Best.

A gentleman named Michael McKenzie called us back and told us the company’s address was 15 Deaderick Street, the same address listed on their website.

“We’re on the second floor, fourth room,” the man said. “You are just talking now with someone in this office.”

But our Scripps station in Nashville, WTVF, has stopped and the “15 Deaderick” address doesn’t exist in downtown Nashville – the closest thing is Public Square Park.

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The man denied being connected in any way to Inline Repo and did not explain why the website contained some of the same images and listings.

“I don’t know this website,” the man said.

Auction the Best and AuctBest LLC are not registered to do business in Tennessee, records show.

Darren Simmons of Columbia City Indiana says he almost sent AuctBest money after winning a bid on a Newell Coach, that is, until he found pictures of the vehicle on a another website with an almost identical description.

“It was going to be a good deal for me,” Darren said. “I was going to have a very good coach. We just wanted something cheap.

Darren said the seller of the Newell Coach confirmed that her vehicle was not repossessed and that she was not involved with AuctBest.

“That shouldn’t be allowed,” Darren said.

WRTV Investigates asked FBI Special Agent Spencer Brooks what he could do about online auction sites.

“We can track IP addresses, we can track bank accounts,” Special Agent Brooks said.

The FBI can’t confirm or deny that it investigates complaints about online auction sites, even though the Inline Repo victims we spoke with lost $97,000.

“We investigate cases that typically cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Special Agent Brooks said. “We have to be picky because we are going to investigate the five million dollar case before the million dollar case. That’s the reality when you only have a limited number of agencies and analysts to do this work.”

The FBI said bad actors often convert their money quickly into cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, making it more difficult to trace.

Also, the FBI cannot always subpoena cases when other countries are involved.

“If they move overseas, the funds move overseas, we lose our jurisdiction,” Special Agent Brooks said.

Special Agent Brooks said the country where a website’s domain is registered, such as Iceland, is a clue, but not definitive proof.

“Does that mean the operation is set up there?” Not necessarily,” Special Agent Brooks said. “It could or could be a company that offers server space or the ability to host a website there.”

The FBI is not really able to shut down websites.

“Did we do it for business? Absolutely, but it’s not something we do unilaterally,” Special Agent Brooks said. “There are a lot of court documents that go in that direction. I wish there was a way to stop these things easily, but it really is impossible.

You can file an Internet crime complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center here.

Better Business Bureau tips for avoiding auction scams

  • Research auctions and auctioneers before participating. If an auction claims to be a “government” auction, contact the branch of government holding the event to make sure it is legitimate. If you are considering a private auction or an auction organized by a private company, find out about the auctioneer in advance. Look closely at reviews from previous buyers. Does the auctioneer have a good reputation? Do they have the appropriate licenses to conduct the auction? If the answer is no or if no information is available about the auctioneer, it may be best not to participate.
  • Get to know the terms and conditions of the auction. Find out if there are any registration fees, winning bidder fees, taxes, or shipping costs you will need to pay. Winning an auction may not be as simple as paying your bid price. Additionally, scammers may try to extort “entry fees” or “pre-auction deposits” from you without even having real items in their auction.
  • Don’t give in to the bidder’s excitement. Don’t make impulse purchases when participating in auctions. Scammers will rely on you to get carried away with the excitement and might even goad you into a fake bidding war to squeeze more money out of you. Even when you’re on a reputable auction site, set yourself a spending limit and stick to it. If an item is beyond your budget, don’t buy it.
  • Understand how auction sites work. Carefully check the rules and policies of each auction website. Pay particular attention to buyer protections put in place by the auctioneer. Find out what policies apply if an item doesn’t deliver or is significantly different from its description. Each site may have different rules and procedures. If a website offers no buyer protection, consider it a red flag.
  • Find out how payments are made. Know how and who you will pay before placing a bid. If the seller insists on using a payment method you don’t know about, do some research. If the payment service does not have a customer service line that you can contact for details on how the service works, do not use it to make a payment.
  • Check the seller’s contact information. The same goes for the seller or the auctioneer. Check their website and look for valid contact information. If you can’t reach anyone, or if you’re talking to someone who isn’t comfortable answering your questions, don’t participate in their auction.
  • Be careful with your personal information. Make sure you trust a website, company or auctioneer before disclosing your personal information. Once your information is in the hands of a scammer, you won’t be able to get it back.
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