Knowledge is Power: How to Avoid Auto Transport Scams and Ensure a Smooth Relocation

Brantley Kendall

27 Sep 2023 9 months ago


Moving can be exciting, but it can also be stressful. Think about it: right from packing up your belongings to identifying your next residence, there are a lot of things to handle and arrange. What’s more, there’s the crucial responsibility of moving your car securely to your new place.

Most car shipping companies are honest operators but don’t let your guard down. There are enough scams out there to make extra vigilance necessary when choosing a car shipping provider.

Wondering what an auto transport scam looks like? In simple terms, it’s an evil trick where a person or company pretends to be a legitimate auto transport service. Their tactics include failing to provide the promised service or offering such a lousy service that it’s deemed a car shipping scam.

 Various types of auto-shipping scams exist, varying in their methods. However, they share one thing – the con artist typically asks for cash up-front, then either doesn’t deliver the promised services, or they do, but the service standard is shocking.

We will help you recognize signs of car transport scams, such as unusually low costs, unprofessional behavior, and lack of proper licenses or insurance. Furthermore, we will guide you through the precautions you should take before trusting a transportation company with your car, such as conducting thorough research, reading customer feedback, and comparing different price quotes.

Being well-informed can shield you against car transport scams. So, please do yourself a favor, get comfy with a hot cup of coffee, and join us as we explore the landscape of car transport scams. Let’s first know the gravity of auto transport scams and how they come up as a big challenge.

The Rise of Auto Transport Scams: How Scammers Prey on Desperate Car Owners

The auto shipping industry increased in size by 3.4% in 2022, and with more business comes more opportunities for scammers. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it appears that auto transport scams are sneaking up on the radar again, and they’re growing more numerous and crafty. Several high-profile cases shed light on the growing menace of auto transport scams. One of the most prolific was reported late last year.

A man lost over $600,000 in a series of transport scams involving high-end cars. Victims are lured with enticingly low prices and fake service guarantees, but once the payment is made, the promised services are never delivered.

Some folks told BBB’s Scam Tracker about a fishy trend they noticed with a “company” that moved their vehicles. Everything was fine and dandy till they wanted their wheels back at the desired location. Suddenly, the company was all like, “Ah, we’re going to need a bit more bucks than what we initially settled on,” effectively kidnapping the car, truck, or motorcycle.

A customer posted on BBB about how he encountered an auto-shipping scam. As per the victim, he paid a company to ship his motorcycle, but the company never delivered it. They told the customer that his payment bounced, even though the customer checked his account and there was no refund. The company then threatened to keep the motorcycle in storage unless the customer paid an additional $900. The customer refused to pay, and now he needs to find out where his bike is. To add to the concerns, this isn’t an isolated case but rather part of a rising trend.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says there were more than 32,000 complaints about car shipping issues in 2021, which ended up costing consumers a whopping $37 million. Better Business Bureau (BBB) pointed out that complaints about car shipping scams shot up by 21% between 2019 and 2020. That’s quite a spike, right? According to the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), there were around 4,400 instances of vehicle fraud in the US in 2022 alone. Seriously, that’s a lot of scams, and they cost Americans more than $10 million.

Some TellTale Signs of Auto Transport Scams

Scam 1: Bait and Switch Pricing

Some underhanded car shipping companies are known to play this game pretty often. They’ll lure you in with a sweet, low quote. It sounds great, right? You’re patting yourself on the back, thinking, “What a deal!”. Well, brace yourself because once your beloved car is trapped in their evil clutches, they’ll ratchet up the price faster than a Formula 1 pit stop.

Are you feeling betrayed? You are not responsible for this! You trusted that tempting initial quote, and you were only trying to get your wheels from A to B. So, how do you dodge these fraudsters? Well, the trick is to go full Sherlock. Vet the company thoroughly before you let them anywhere near your car.

  • Read reviews, see what fellow customers are saying, Google them, Yelp them, heck, even find them on Facebook. And remember those industry organizations. Are they cowering in the corner with a bad rep, or are they standing tall with gleaming recommendations? Choose wisely.
  • Last, but not least, wait to sign on the dotted line until you’ve seen a thorough breakdown of costs. You want transparency, not a magic trick. So there you have it, folks. Stay sharp, and your car (and wallet) will thank you.

Scam 2: Phantom Shipments

Phantom shipments are a type of fraud where fraudsters create an illusion of shipping your purchased vehicle while they have no intention of delivering the car. They accomplish this deceit in several steps. Scammers typically reach out to you via email or a site’s messaging service, promising a seamless and cost-effective shipping process. They create a sense of urgency, ensuring that the victim feels they have landed an unbeatable deal. They often use legitimate shipping companies’ names to build trust.

The fraudster then requests upfront payment for the vehicle and shipping fees — usually through hard-to-trace methods like wire transfers or prepaid gift cards. Once the payment is made, the ‘shipper’ who never had your vehicle in the first place disappears. With a little vigilance and knowledge, you can navigate these treacherous waters safely. Here are a few tips:

  • Look Out for Red Flags: Unbelievably low prices? Urgent sales due to moving abroad or personal crisis? These are all warning signs. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Never Transfer Funds Electronically: Legitimate businesses do not solely operate through wire transfers or prepaid cards. Always choose a secure payment method that provides buyer protection.
  • Verify the Shipping Company: Want to know if a shipper is legitimate? Directly contact the shipping company being used and verify the shipment details.

Scam 3: False Insurance Claims

Car shipping companies sometimes take advantage of individuals by claiming they have valid insurance coverage for all the cars they transport. But, often, this coverage needs to be improved or exist. So, what does this mean for the customer? It leaves them open to potential financial risks in case their vehicle gets damaged or lost while being shipped. Scammers in this industry are known for tweaking insurance papers in all sorts of ways to deceive customers. Here’s how they do it:

  • Faking Insurance Documents: Scammers might hand you insurance documents that look genuine but are, in fact, fake, having been completely made up.
  • Showing off Out-of-date Insurance Papers: They could also show you insurance papers that have run out of date and pretend that they’re still valid.

Not to worry, though, at SAKAEM Logistics, we only use carriers with appropriate insurance coverage. We have no problem showing you the details when you book with us. Let us know if you’d like to check out their insurance paperwork. We’re always ready to share.

Scam 4: Fake Transport Companies

A reliable car shipping company needs to be registered with a government body known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They have to fulfill certain conditions, like hitting a specific amount of insurance coverage, to get this registration. Now, some businesses prefer to skip all that and run their operations under the radar. Law enforcement sometimes snags these guys so that you might bump into one at some point.

 Steer clear of these companies, though. Make sure to ask them for their motor carrier number – it’s a pretty solid sign they’re legit if they have one. And just to double check, you can feed this number into the FMCSA’s website. It’ll let you know if the car shipping company is on the up and up and whether they have enough insurance.

 Scam 5: Fake Transport Companies

Are these digital con artists promising you high-class services at low rates? Beware! The internet is rife with fraudsters impersonating genuine sites to deceit and trap innocent people. Simply put, scammers copy the look and feel of reputable websites, from the logo to the layout, even the URL. They mislead people into believing they’re contacting the right company. So, how can vehicle owners distinguish real from fake?

  • Analyze the URL: If a website’s URL looks suspicious or has minor changes, such as a misspelled company name or extra characters, it’s a red flag. For example, instead of ‘XCompanyServices.com,’ a scam site might use the URL ‘X-CompanyServices.com.’
  • Examine the Security Status: A trustworthy site will have ‘https://,’ not just ‘http://.’ Most browsers display a padlock symbol verifying secure connections.
  • Poor Grammar & Spelling Mistakes: Typically, scammer websites contain many spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. High-class services have professional content free from such errors.

Scammers, aware of the common wish for high-quality, budget-friendly services, leverage this. They lure potential victims with tempting offers. These fraudsters focus on immediate gratification while downplaying potential risks.

Just imagine you find a site offering top-tier vehicle services that diverge by price from the market rate to an unbelievable extent. You might think, “What a deal!” But the reality is, if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true! Remember, scammers are relentlessly crafty. They constantly devise new strategies to trap vehicle owners by impersonating genuine sites. Therefore, it’s paramount that you are cautious while browsing and remain alert to the subtle signs of deceit in order to protect your hard-earned money.

How to Recognize and Avoid Scams?

Car shipping scams are, unfortunately, all too common in today’s digital age. With so many fraudulent individuals and companies out there, it’s important to know how to recognize and avoid falling victim to these scams. Thankfully, there are some actionable steps you can take to protect yourself and your vehicle. So, let’s start with the first thing:

Research the company

When it comes to avoiding car shipping scams, research is key. Take the time to investigate each company you’re considering thoroughly, compare prices and services, and check for proper registration and licensing. By doing so, you can protect yourself from falling victim to scams and ensure that your beloved vehicle arrives safely at its destination.

You can ‘check out’ their rates and services. Beat the scammers who try to entrap you with cheap offers or unlikely promises. By studying various companies, you can gauge the standard cost to ship a car and swerve around any deals that sound too good to be real.

Also, taking a look at services lets you make sure that the firm you pick provides exactly what you’re after, be it open car transport, enclosed car transport, motorbike shipping, or dealer relocation. Don’t hesitate to ping each company with your questions about their modus operandi and policies. A trustworthy company will be definitely ready to give you all you need to make a well-informed decision.

Ask for References

So, are you thinking about using a car shipping service? Great idea! But remember to ask them for references from their past customers. Any genuine company that’s doing a good job will be okay sharing this. Speaking with their previous clients will give you a good idea about the company’s track record and reliability.

Now, besides asking for references, it’s pretty important that you only use contact info from trusted sources when getting in touch with these folks. Don’t just rely on a phone number the company provides you; do a quick online search and get it from a reliable site. This is a surefire way to avoid any crafty scammers claiming to be legitimate car shipping services.

In a nutshell, being a little extra careful and taking the initiative can save you from falling for some shady car shipping scams. The one-two combo of asking for references and verifying contact info via trusted resources keeps you in safe hands.

 Understand Your Agreement

Knowing what’s in your transport agreement is critical, as it helps you steer clear of any possible hitches or scams. Being thoroughly familiar with the terms of the deal means you’re all clued up about what both you and the transport company are responsible for in the course of moving your vehicle.

Apart from giving you a decent heads-up on what to anticipate, the agreement also clues you in on pick-up and delivery times, insurance matters, and any extra fees you might need to pay. Plus, by scrutinizing your contract, you can be on the lookout for dodgy stuff and potentially avoid being scammed.

 What’s more, having a firm grasp of your agreement means you can talk business with the transport company, raise relevant issues, and take care of any worries you might have. In essence, putting in the effort to figure out your transport agreement gives you the upper hand, ensuring your vehicle gets to its destination safe and sound while also reducing the chance of you being taken for a ride.

Payment Red Flags

When dealing with auto transport companies, they usually ask for a deposit first and then the rest of the payment once your car is delivered. If a company wants you to pay everything upfront, or they’re asking for payments through less traditional methods like wire transfers or prepaid cards, that might be a cause for concern. These could be warning signs of a scam. Stay alert and keep an eye out for these types of payment issues so you can better avoid any potential scams out there. Also, remember to do a deep dive into any company you’re dealing with, ask for their motor carrier number, and always stick to trustworthy and secure ways to pay. 

Authentic auto transport firms maintain transparency in their payment procedures. If any company hesitates to provide this information, it should provoke suspicion. A serious warning sign is if the company denies disclosing their physical address. A bona fide business should willingly share their address. If a company provides evasive or incomplete answers, it implies uncertainty.

 Insurance Coverage Scams

Avoid being fooled by bogus auto transport companies claiming to carry insurance when, in fact, they don’t. Steer clear of the companies providing false documentation or forging certificates without verifying them directly with their provider. Customers must verify whether the coverage they need exists by reaching out now. Even when an auto transport company has insurance, their minimum coverage may not provide adequate protection for your vehicle in case of damage or theft. You should review their policy to make sure it fits with your specific needs and requirements.

Certain insurance policies contain exclusions and limitations that could leave you exposed. For instance, some policies might not cover damage from natural disasters, acts of God, or theft inside the vehicle. So, it’s essential that you carefully read your policy to understand any restrictions that could void its coverage.

SAKAEM Logistics: Your Trusted Partner in Transparent Auto Transport Service

SAKAEM Logistics is more than just your average auto transport company. Not only do we hold an excellent reputation, but we’re also known for our honesty, transparency, and dependability in all our services. We go the extra mile, giving you a secure and stress-free experience from start to finish in the entire auto transport journey.

Standout Quality of the Service

Our standout quality is our dedication to transparency. We’re big believers that open and honest communication forms the cornerstone of gaining customer trust. Right off the bat, we’ll give you the low-down on our services, pricing, and policies – no mumbo jumbo, no hidden cost. Our goal is to make everything as clear as daylight for you, enlightening you about the entire procedure.

Excellent Network of Licensed Carriers

We work hand in hand with an excellent network of licensed carriers. These carriers are not just highly qualified, but they also have a consistent history of delivering vehicles safely and on time. To add an extra layer of security, we back your car with extensive insurance coverage. This ensures your vehicle is protected against any unexpected incidents.

Top Notch Customer Service

But that’s not all! We believe in being transparent and ensuring safety and strive to provide top-notch customer service. Our friendly and proficient team is always ready to help you out. Any questions? Any concerns? The SAKAEM team is here to address them and guide you smoothly through the process.

We’ll keep you updated on your vehicle’s status, making sure you’re fully informed at each stage.

 What truly sets SAKAEM Logistics apart, though, is the use of advanced technology and tracking systems. We offer live tracking for your vehicle so you can keep an eye on it throughout its journey. It’s a fantastic feature that allows you to know exactly where your car is and when it’ll reach its destination. Result? Complete peace of mind for you! Isn’t that great?

Conclusion: Stay Vigilant, Choose SAKAEM Logistics

In conclusion, falling victim to an auto transport scam can be a costly and stressful experience. Thus, the importance of vigilance in avoiding auto transport scams must be emphasized. How do you stay vigilant? Conduct thorough research, identify common scam tactics, and, most importantly, choose a trustworthy partner. So why let worry take the driver’s seat? Engage with sakaemlogistics.com for a driven, transparent, and scam-free auto transport service. After all, isn’t peace of mind the ultimate destination on any journey?

Common PAA (People Also Ask)

What are the Signs of Auto Transport Scams?

Firstly, if a company asks for payment upfront before any services have been provided, that should raise a red flag. Reputable companies typically require a deposit or payment upon delivery. Additionally, be wary of unusually low prices as they may indicate hidden costs or subpar service quality. Lastly, please do your research and read reviews about the company to ensure they have a good track record. By staying vigilant and being cautious, you can protect yourself from falling victim to auto transport scams.

How Do I Verify an Auto Transport Company?

 Check websites like Better Business Bureau for the company’s reputation. Every legitimate auto transport company will have a USDOT number. You can verify it on the FMCSA website. A professional company will be able to provide its insurance details. Be sure to verify these with the insurer itself.

Are All Auto Transport Brokers Scams?

Many reputable brokers work as a liaison between customers and carriers, making the transport process smoother. As with carriers, always check the broker’s reviews and verify their USDOT number.

What Should I Do If an Auto Transport Company scams me?

Inform your local authorities and file a complaint with the FMCSA. If you paid by credit card, you might be able to reverse the charge. If the amount lost is significant, you might consider hiring a lawyer and taking legal action.

How Can I Safely Ship My Car across the Country?

If you are looking to ship a car to another state, start with a thorough research of the company, looking at its reputation, insurance details, and license. Document the state of your vehicle before shipping to identify any potential damages afterward. Make sure to read and understand all the clauses in the contract before signing. Discuss your desired delivery window and any associated costs with the company before finalizing.


Brantley Kendall