Looking for cars, trucks, scooters, 4 wheelers on for sale sights is a national past time, but a new scam twist make it more dangerous than ever and can get you hooked into the sweepstakes scam network as well!

Hundreds of consumers from across the country began contacting BBB at the end of March about Springfield Shippers, which claimed to handle escrow and shipping for vehicles in the U.S. and Canada. Within a few weeks, at least 17 additional vehicle shipping websites popped up, all claiming to be located in Springfield, Missouri.

– Six consumers have reported losing $2,800 to $9,500 each by wiring money to purchase vehicles through these fraudulent companies.

– The company websites look similar and sometimes share the same address or phone number. BBB site visits and inquiries confirm the business addresses listed on the websites are for other unrelated businesses or for locations that do not exist.

– Consumers recount almost identical stories to BBB in which they find cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, boats, jet skis, semi-trucks or farm equipment at too-good-to-be-true prices ranging from $3,000 to $15,000 primarily on local Craigslist, Autotrader and local free print publications.

– Excited by the vehicle’s condition and below-market prices, the potential buyer contacts the seller, who is usually a woman. She says she is using a shipper to handle escrow and transportation of the vehicle to the potential buyer. BBB believes the sellers and shippers are bogus.

– The seller usually shares a story via email about why she is selling the vehicle, saying her husband recently died and the vehicle brings back sad memories, so she wants to sell it as soon as possible. She tells the buyer that the vehicle and paperwork are being stored at the shipper’s location in Springfield, where she recently moved to be with family.

– Alternate storylines involve the seller being deployed in military service or going through divorce.

– Potential buyers report to BBB that they are given the name of a financial representative and are asked to complete a bank-to-bank wire transfer. They are told they will have five days to evaluate the vehicle, and if they aren’t satisfied, the shipper will pick up the vehicle and return it to Springfield, with all shipping fees paid by the seller.

Investigators with the Greene County Sheriff’s office and the U.S. Secret Service believe the financial representatives are real people who may or may not know they are being used by the scammers to move money.

Once the wire transfer is complete, it is very difficult to recoup money. The Greene County Sheriff’s office advises consumers who believe they may be victims of the scam to contact their bank immediately to report the issue and seek any assistance the bank can provide. Consumers who have lost money can report it on bbb.org and file a report with the sheriff’s office, which is working with the U.S. Secret Service on the case.

Consumers report more than 20 names for the bogus sellers, who usually give the same home address on invoices. Emails sent from sellers to buyers are nearly identical.

“I want to use their (the shipper’s) escrow and transport services as they offer 100% protection and insurance to both buyers and sellers,” sellers write in emails to buyers about why they are using a third party’s services.

A former Springfield, Missouri, woman living in Tampa, Florida, told BBB there was no protection for the money she wired to purchase an RV listed on a Florida Craigslist ad. She said she searched Craigslist for the RV because “I’m going through a divorce and I needed a place to live, and it was a really good deal.”

The woman said she contacted the seller by email. “She told me her husband had a heart attack and died a month ago, and she was just trying to get rid of the RV because it brought back bad memories. She had it in escrow with Springfield Shippers. I gave her my information and she gave it to Springfield Shippers,” she recalled.

Springfield Shippers sent a detailed, legitimate-looking invoice, the woman said. “They sent me the banking account information for a person they told me was in the financial department for their company. I wired $6,500 to them. And then I realized everything was fake,” she said.

When she called the phone number listed on Springfield Shippers’ website, a man with a heavy accent denied the transaction occurred and blocked her calls. The bank that completed the wire transfer told her there was nothing they could do. “That was all my money, so now I’m homeless and broke,” she said.

“Vehicle scams that use Craigslist or other internet marketplaces are not new, but what’s especially concerning is that these third-party shipping websites are popping up at a rapid rate,” says Michelle L. Corey, president and CEO of BBB St. Louis. “A shipping company with a new website and a requirement for buyers to wire money without seeing the vehicle is most likely fraudulent.”

An Indiana man found a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) on Craigslist. He told BBB he was uncomfortable wiring $4,000, but Springfield Shippers convinced him it was a “newer, safer way,” to complete the transaction, he said.

None of the shippers are registered with the Missouri secretary of state, but all claim to be located in Springfield, Missouri. According to whois.com, most of the following website domain names were registered by NameCheap in Panama on these dates:

March 27: springfield-shippers.com

March 29: dvv-auto-shippers.com

April 15: dfn-auto-shippers.com

April 16: sprfreight.com

April 17: kvl-auto-shippers.com, dvd-auto-shippers.com, dym-auto-shippers.com, kym-auto-shippers.com

April 24: fym-auto-shippers.com

April 30: dfr-auto-shippers.com, dgg-auto-shippers.com, bag-auto-shippers.com

May 2: dkx-auto-shippers.com

May 3: bnn-quality-shippers.com, vnn-premium-shipping.com

May 4: ddm-quality-shipping.com, mdm-quality-logistics.com

May 16: missouri-auto-shippers.com

Consumers tell BBB similar bogus third-party shipping websites and vehicle sellers are operating in Omaha, Nebraska, under the names dps-auto-shippers.com, dva-auto-shippers.com, dvn-auto-shippers.com, dvs-auto-shippers.com, omaha-shippers.com, svc-vehicle-shipping and dsv-vehicles.com.

Similar websites have begun appearing with Kansas City, Fargo, New York, and London addresses at kansas-city-shippers.com, silvershippers.com, yellowshippers.com, theswiftlogistics.com and theleadlogistics.com.

Calls from BBB to the phone numbers listed on the websites were not answered or were disconnected when investigators identified themselves and began asking questions.

BBB offers the following tips for how to recognize a potential online vehicle scam:

– The seller shares a sad story and can’t meet face-to-face or let you inspect the vehicle.

– The vehicle costs around $5,000 but is valued higher.

– A third party handles the money and/or shipping.

– The shipping company uses a professional-looking website with no verifiable physical location.

– The shipping website does not post the DOT Motor Carrier Number.

– Payment is by wire transfer