5/6/19 Fraudulent Check Scam

WATDA has received calls from dealers in the central part of the state informing us that there is an individual (know as Tanner Ligenza) who has purchased vehicles by passing checks from a non-existing account. From the information we have received, he is targeting late model full sized SUV’s in the $30-$40,000 range. WATDA suggests that whenever someone attempts to purchase a vehicle with a personal or cashier’s check, that dealers do their best due diligence to ensure that the checking account exists, that it is in the name of the individual writing the check, that there are sufficient funds to cover the check. In the case of a cashier’s check, you should always call the lending institution that issued the check to verify its’ authenticity.  

3/1/17 Wire Transfer Scam

On March 1, 2017 we received word from a Wisconsin dealership that they were contacted by an impostor claiming to be the General Manager of the dealership. They asked for a large sum of money to be immediately transferred to a beneficiary located in Addison, AL. The dealer later received a phone call with the caller ID of the bank the money was suppose to be transferred to asking for someoe who is not employed by the dealership. If you contacted in a similar manner, please contact the employee that supposedly send the email and your local sheriff's department. 

10/31/16 SPAM/Virus Email

WATDA has received a report that a Wisconsin car dealership received an emailing in reference to a charge on a customers credit for service they did not receive. The email contained profane language and appeared to be from a legitimate email address. Within the email signature of said customer, the phone and fax numbers were non-existent. The dealership had no record of doing business with this person and they believe the email to be a virus. Please double check all records before reimbursing a customer. 

10/17/16 Fraudulent Activity

WATDA has received a report that an Endorsed Service vendor (Staples) received a request, allegedly from a Wisconsin dealer, to set up an account to receive Staples products at the WATDA discount. The problem was, while the dealership is located in Wisconsin, the shipping address was in Georgia. 
Fortunately, Staples scrutinized the request and shut it down before any orders were placed. WATDA urges all of our members to double check your accounts payable to ensure no one is using your dealership's information to place orders and/or send you invoices for products you never requested. 
If you have any questions or think you may have been subject to fraudulent activity, contact WATDA today!

9/28/16 Customer Scam

Dealers in the Sheboygan area have alerted WATDA of a particular customer who is systematically defrauding dealers. The individual is a woman, going by the name of Sarah L. Soucheck. She shows up wanting to buy a vehicle by paying with a check. In at least once instance the check was drawn from an attorney’s checking account. However, the check she presents is bogus or the account does not have enough money to cover it.  Upon taking delivery she immediately takes the vehicle to a Title Loan company and takes out a substantial loan against the vehicle. By the time the dealership realizes that they have a bad check, the vehicle is encumbered by thousands of dollars. At the time of this alert she has purchased at least 3 vehicles in this manner.  
Please direct questions and/or concerns to…
Christopher Snyder
WATDA Executive VP/General Counsel
(608) 251-5577


7/21 Be Aware of Email "Phishing" Scams

NADA has received a report of a dealer receiving "phishing" emails containing fraudulent wire instructions for payments to vendors or other parties. Dealers should be aware that perpetrators of scams like this have become very sophisticated. An email providing bogus payment instructions may appear to be from a recognized email address (potentially even the email address of a person within your organization) and it may be quite convincing. The fraudulent email may also include a PDF or other form of attachment that is virtually indistinguishable in style and format from legitimate documents used by a party with whom you do business. Because of the level of sophistication, you should not assume that email messages pertaining to financial transactions are legitimate. 
With this in mind you and your employees should be aware that:
  1. Payment account, address or a phone number provided in an email may not be legitimate
  2. A link within an email may direct you to a login screen or other web page that appears legitimate but is not
  3. If you reply to an email, you may be sending information to scam perpetrators.
What can you do to reduce your chances of being victimized by this type of fraud? At a minimum, if you receive an email or other communication relating to a financial transaction, particularly an email providing instructions for making a payment, you should have someone place a phone call to a known individual with the payee using a known valid phone number to confirm that the instructions are legitimate.

4/15 Fake Service Customer

A customer made an appointment to drop off her vehicle for service and obtain a service loaner. The drop-off/pick-up occurred at 5:00 pm so the loaner was for overnight use. The dealership executed a rental agreement limiting the loaner's use to within 50 miles of the dealership. When the dealership contacted the customer with the repair estimate the next morning the customer did not authorize repairs. The customer delayed returning the vehicle for a few days after which she simply dropped off the service loaner and took back her own vehicle without having any repairs performed. When the rental vehicle was returned, the dealership learned that it had been driven several hundred miles and incurred IL tolls and tickets. It was apparent to the dealership that this wasn't the first time the customer had used a daily service loaner as a free rental.

Other issues of note. The customer caused a loud confrontation as a way to get the dealership to expedite her transaction and possibly avoid close scrutiny of her license and insurance. The customer obtained insurance on the vehicle she dropped off for service the day prior to dropping it off for service.

Ways to avoid this scam:
The dealership has some recourse against the customer because she violated the terms of the rental agreement but, because the vehicle was returned, it isn't considered stolen so the police would have no interest in involving themselves in the issue. Had the dealership reported the vehicle stolen after it wasn't returned when promised, the customer might have had a less comfortable trip.

Secondly, the dealership can pursue the legal remedies outlined in the rental agreement forcing the tickets and tolls onto the driver. The dealership can also sue for excess mileage because, based on the IL tolls, the customer clearly took the vehicle more than 50 miles from the dealership.

Most likely the scammer is hoping that the money the dealer might hope to recover is not worth the hassle of the dealership pursuing recovery.

WATDA would like to thank Hudson Chrysler for bringing this to our attention.

8/14 Fake Payroll Stubs

There is a scam going on that affects dealers, especially those dealing in subprime.  A customer goes to a website called Real Check Stubs https://realcheckstubs.com/ (there are actually multiple sites that offer the same service) and secures phony check stubs substantiating employment and income.  They then purchase a vehicle from a dealership using this documentation and drive off of the lot.  When the dealer assigns the transaction to a bank the deal is rejected once the bank verifies employment.

5/8/14 Prepaid Credit Cards in Offline Transactions

The suspected perpetrator goes in to buy a car and uses a pre-paid credit card. The card does not go through so the dealership then calls the number on the back of the credit card.  The dealer then gets a code number from the suspect's co-actor who represents to be a representative of Green Dot Bank located in CA.  Once the merchant has the code they enter a 6 digit number manually into their credit card machine terminal. The merchant can use any 4 or 6 digital combination to do an offline transaction.  At the close of business the dealership completes a batch entry to link their offline transactions that they have completed on their credit card terminal. Credit card offline transactions are electronically processed through the Automatic Clearing House (ACH), when  Green DOT Bank receives the electronic information they charge back the transaction to the dealer’s business account. 

If you are notified of any of these types of transactions, please let WATDA know.

4/17/14 State Businesses Urged to Use Caution about Offer from Corporate Records Service

MADISON – The Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) is encouraging Wisconsin business owners to be discerning if they receive an offer from Michigan-based Corporate Records Service. In the mailing received by multiple Wisconsin businesses, the company offers to prepare and provide "corporate consent records" for a fee of $125. However, Wisconsin businesses are not required by DFI or any other state agency to complete the document, titled "2014 Annual Records Solicitation Form.”  DFI, which is the filing office for Wisconsin businesses, has received numerous inquiries over the past two days from business owners asking about the form.
"The form has an official look to it and includes company-specific information, such as corporation number and incorporation date, which is on file with DFI," said George Petak, Administrator of DFI’s Division of Corporate and Consumer Services. "Business owners should be aware, however, that completion of this form is not required for any filing with DFI."
The full press release may be found at www.wdfi.org/Newsroom/Press.

Click Here for a Link to More Information

SEO On the Fly - Invoices for Services Not Ordered

These sample invoices show persistent billing practices for items not ordered.  The very small print states, "This is a solicitation for the order of goods or services, or both, and not a bill, invoice or statement of account due.  You are under no obligation to make any payments on account of this offer unless you accept this offer."

After the dealership paid the invoice once the small print is removed and the invoice clearly reads as such.  Note the "Balance Forward and Late Charges" lines incorporated into the invoice.  There is no statement of account terms anywhere to justify either a balance forward or late charge.

Family Values...

Today's scam is a variation of the old overpayment/refund trick. Add in a little family values like giving a vehicle as a wedding gift and a blessing and maybe a dealer won't notice that it is a scam.

Here's the contact email:

Thanks for the response and i am highly delighted,i am okay with the price given and i will be making a deposit of $500 for the vehicle now,i want this vehicle as a surprise wedding gift for my son and he lives with his wife in Texas,in fact i am also thinking of buying another car from you for the wife as well but i want to sort this transaction out first, before now i have been discussing with the private Shipping Agent that will handle the shipping and special delivery of the vehicle on the wedding day and he has made it clear to me that he can not accept my credit card as a means of payment because he does not have a credit card machine to run it through and he requested $2000 upfront payment back and forth to handle the special delivery,sign all documents with power of attorney on my behalf and make final payment for the vehicle with Bank of America Check,at this point i will like to bring to your notice that apart from the balance of the vehicle which he will bring to your location i do not have sufficient raw cash to pay him so i will like you to do me a special favor by charging my credit card details for an excess of $2000 which you will kindly help to forward to the Shipping Agent via Western Union Money Transfer at the nearest location around you or you could just cut a check back and overnight it to the Shipper Agent,which means you will be charging $2,500 on my credit card,i.e $500 for the car deposit and $2,000 for the Shipping Agent which you will have to forward to the shipping agent so as to get the ball rolling on the vehicle purchase,thanks for your co-operation and i look forward reading from you soon,let me know if you are okay with this plan so i can forward my credit card details immediately,stay blessed in Jesus name.

Dr Henry Williams

Joking aside, this scam has many classic components that should raise concerns.

  • Overpayment with a request to send money elsewhere
  • No direct, face-to-face contact
  • Offer to purchase a readily available vehicle from a long distance away
  • Horrible punctuation, spelling and grammar (really, if he was a doctor, would you go to him?)
  • Promise of more transactions to come

 The first point is almost always a scam. The others should raise caution and encourage dealership staff to verify identity and funds.

Thanks to Holiday Automotive for bringing this scam to our attention.

Scam Alert from the Small Business Administration

From: Merrigan, Cindy L. <cindy.merrigan@sba.gov>
Sent: Thu Feb 19 09:50:59 2009
Subject: SBA Scam Alert

Good Morning. This release concerns a Scam Alert based on reports from SBA districts across the country that someone is using stationary with what appears to be an SBA letterhead to small businesses across the country, advising recipients that they may be eligible for a tax rebate under the Economic Stimulus Act, and that SBA is assessing their eligibility for such a rebate. The letter asks the small business to provide the name of its bank and account number.

Needless to say SBA doesn't do that, but a lot of people won't know that. This release announces a Scam Alert warning small businesses not to respond to letters falsely claiming to have been sent by the SBA asking for bank account information in order to qualify them for federal tax rebates.

Please do all that is possible to get the word out to your small business customers. Thanks.

Cindy Merrigan
Business Development Specialist
Wisconsin District - Madison
Internal Fax 202.481.0815 

Safety 1st & BBB Kentucky

Email received from the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau (January 8, 2009)


We thought you might be interested in this information we received from the BBB in Kentucky. Please feel free to publish it in your newsletter or share it with your members. Per our sources:

The Better Business Bureau wants to alert car dealerships in Wisconsin to a possible scam company - Safety 1st Company, AKA Safety 1st. We believe this company is a morph of R&K Wholesale, a company known to send bogus invoices to car dealerships throughout the country. The BBB is continuing to investigate. Please be aware of any questionable invoice activity emanating from Madisonville, KY, particularly (though perhaps not exclusively) involving car dealerships (usually new car) bills for merchandise never ordered or received. If you do discover anything, please contact Susan Bach at the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau – (414) 847-6085.

Thank you,

Susan Bach | Director of Communications

Tel: 414-847-6085
Fax: 414-302-0355
Email: sbach@wisconsin.bbb.org

Wisconsin BBB
10101 W. Greenfield Avenue Suite 125
Milwaukee, WI 53214

OSHA Compliance Invoices for Services Not Rendered

This scam is a variation of the old "bill 'em for what they didn't get" scam with the scammers capitalizing on the tremendous compliance requirements placed on dealers.

In the scam, dealers receive an invoice for an OSHA training DVD. The invoice is for an amount typically in the neighborhood of $150.00 and the company name looks credible. The scam invoice reported to your WATDA was from Safety First, R & K Wholesale and Distribution in Madisonville, Kentucky.

Like any good scam it looks believable, with a purchase order number, sometimes an employee name, phone numbers and even an email address; however, when you call the number there is no live person to answer the phone.

You are under no obligation to pay an invoice for goods not ordered (or received). Oftentimes these scammers get quite creative in their collection procedures, sometimes trying to collect years after the initial invoice was sent. To protect your dealership from inadvertently paying scam invoices follow these suggestions:

  • Use purchase orders
  • Verify received goods against purchase orders
  • Verify invoices against goods received
  • Require suppliers to provide the purchase order number on the invoice
  • When a purchase order number is not provided on the invoice withhold payment until you can verify that the products or services were indeed ordered and received

Thanks to Howard Hill for the head's up. --Sue Miller 

Money Back Scam via TTY Service

The scam in all of its variations involves a customer requesting that a dealer write a check back. The new twist is that scammers are using hearing-impaired services to perpetrate the scam.

A typical example...

The dealerships receives a call from a hearing-impaired telephone service (TTY). The request comes though in a disjointed manner. The hearing-impaired person has to type in his request and a live person or computer generated voice "reads" what the hearing-impaired person typed. The dealership responds verbally and the computer (or person) provides text back to the hearing-impaired caller.

Because TTY conversations can sometimes be difficult to conduct, dealers may be more willing to go further along with the transaction with less information. -- At least that may be the scammer's thought.

The Wisconsin dealer who reported the scam said that the caller requested that the dealer switch to email communication and was reluctant to divulge his location. The caller tried to control the conversation by providing a lot of instructions to the dealer without giving the dealer an opportunity to respond.

The instructions were classic scam material:

  • I will give you a credit card number to hold the vehicle.
  • Please charge the credit card an additional $2000 and pay it to the shipper for transporting the vehicle.
  • The shipper will give you a cashier's check for the remainder when he comes to pick up the car.

In the end, the card is bad and the cashier's check is bad. The only good money in the deal is the check that the dealer writes to the shipper so the dealer loses both the vehicle and the amount refunded.

Please don't take this notice to mean that you should be cautious of all calls from hearing-impaired services. TTY providers are legitimate companies that offer an important service to people who otherwise would be limited to written communication. The key aspect of the scam isn't the use of a TTY service it is the request that a dealer return funds as part of the transaction.

What you can do to fight these scammers...

When scams are initiated through an Internet contact, (as in these callers switching to email) the U.S. Government has set up a website where Internet crime victims can report a crime and alert an appropriate agency. This website is www.iC3.gov.

When you are the victim, or target, of an Internet scam you help everyone by reporting your experience to the IC3.

If you have additional questions about this subject please contact the WATDA Answer Place team at (608) 251-5577

Another Invoice Scam

WATDA would like to thank 5 Corners Pontiac GMC for alerting us to this new scam:

The dealer notes "This scam invoice was sent to our store 8/10/06. The named manager has been gone for 2 years." The invoice also had the dealership name incorrectly.

The dealership received an invoice from:
Value Added Selling 21
Business 21 Publishing
453A Baltimore Pike
Springfield PA 19064

The invoice was for:
Annual subscription for 3 copies of Value Added Selling 21

The invoice had the name of a former sales manager as the purchaser and appeared legit -- that is unless you consider that the dealer never ordered anything from this company. They also never received anything.

As a reminder, it is a good business practice to require purchase orders for all purchase and to refuse payment without a purchase order.

Key-Switch Scam Hits North Jersey Dealerships

It has come to the attention of NJ CAR that at least two dealerships in North Jersey have been targeted with a skilled key-switching scam that has resulted in cars being stolen. In both cases a woman came into the dealership and asked to sit in a car and turn the ignition on. When she was offered a test drive, she declined stating she had bad credit and would be coming back with her boyfriend. In both cases, no driver’s license or other identification was taken, because the car was not driven off the lot.

The key was either switched at that time or may have been switched when the woman returned with a man at a later time. In any case, in one of the reported instances, a GMC key was replaced with a Chevy key. It is presumed that the thieves returned after the dealership closed and drove the car off the lot. The lesson to be learned is that a driver’s license or some form of identification should also be kept on record whenever a key enters a car, regardless of whether the car is taken for a test drive or not.

Reported by the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers
Reprinted with permission

Scams are Common - Don't Get Caught Making an Enthusiastic Mistake

You've seen the emails...

the personal secretary of billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky and offers recipients a cool $8m providing they'll "help transfer" around $40m of Khodorkovsky's fortune.


I am Mrs. SUHA ARAFAT, the wife of YASSER ARAFAT, the Palestinian leader who died recently in Paris. I have deposited the sum of 20 million dollars with a security firm abroad whose name is withheld for now until we open communication. I shall be grateful if you could receive this fund into your bank account for safe keeping and any Investment opportunity. This arrangement is known to you and my personal Attorney. He might be dealing with you directly for security reasons as the case may be.


Recognizing the need for assistance with tuition, University of Nigeria offers a variety of financial aid options. Our university is in the position of funding your complete tuition in addition to providing for housing, meals, and other expenses you may incur while attending school. We will wire you $10 million into your account and whatever you do not use, just send back upon graduation. You will never have to repay the gift.

These scams are certainly interesting but what do they have to do with dealers? The answer is that as these scams are successful in bilking millions of dollars out of unsuspecting consumers, so a few common scams are having the same effect on unsuspecting dealers. Here are the top three we've seen lately:

The Bill for Goods Not Received Scam

This is an invoice, typically for non-tangible goods such as advertising or web listing. It often names a staff person as the contact. The price tends to be nominal - about what one might expect to pay - and not large enough to trigger additional signatures on the check. Dealers get the invoice and pay it, completely unaware that they paid for something they never received.

The solution:

  • Use purchase orders
  • Require suppliers to provide the purchase order number on the invoice
  • When a purchase order number is not provided on the invoice withhold payment until you can verify that the products or services were indeed ordered and received

The Foreign Buyer - One Check for Everything Scam

Not all foreign buyers are scammers but many are. Typically the scam runs like this:

Email from the scammer:
"Hi, my name is JAY BROWN here in france i saw your ad about your car (CAR DODGE RAM 2500) still for sale. I will want to know your last offering price. in respect of shipping, i have a repuatble shipper who takes care of my shippment. Mail me asap to arrange payment. Thanks. BROWN

(Common scammer flags are the all caps name, the very bad spelling and punctuation, and a commonly available vehicle.)

Email from the dealer:
Dear Mr Brown,
My name is Jim Smith, sales consultant here at Cool Automotive. I just received your inquiry into the 1994 Dodge Ram. Yes it is still available. The most recent price quoted was $9,675 and that would be your price. In regard to payment, a certified check or money order (in US dollars) would be acceptable.

Email from the scammer:
Hello Jim,
Thanks for your respond, i want to purchase it. in respect of shipping i have a reputable shipper who takes care of my shippment. Mail me for other necessary arrangements. So i have a Business Associates over there in the States that will be paying with a certified cashiers check, i will contact him to issue you a certified cashiers check of $13500. So all i want you to do now is to receive this Payment from my Business Associates and deduct your selling price from the funds and then send the remaining excess funds to the Shipping Company. You are not to worry abut shipping, I have a reputable Shipping Company that i have been using for long now, so i am sure they will ship the car right to the destination i want it shipped. Also they have got a lot in the states and also in Europe to ship for me. The remaining excess funds should be sent to the Shipping Company via Western Union Money Transfer and the charges to get funds transferred to them should be deduct from the excess funds you are sending to them (Shipping Company). For this i am compesating you with the sum of $100, If you are ready to transact with me, Which i believe you will certainly do, i will want you to provide me with the following details needed for the Payment to get to you...

The rest of the story:
These scammers count on you sending the money order before your bank notifies you that the cashiers check was bogus. They cash out the money order and disappear.

The solution:

  • Not all foreign buyers are scammers. There are ways to ensure that you are adequately protected from this type of scam.
  • Never accept payment over the amount of the transaction.
  • Wait until the check or money order clears your bank (sometimes as long as 15 days) before releasing the vehicle.

The I've Driven A Long Way Please Don't Send Me Home Empty-Handed Scam

This scam usually begins with an Internet contact from a customer who lives a long distance from Wisconsin. Typically, they are looking at a very modest, commonly obtained vehicle. They negotiate a price and set a delivery date.

When they arrive they have a trade for which they do not have a title, or the title is funky in some manner. The dealer, feeling bad that they have driven so far, tells them to send the title when they get home.

... And the title never comes.

Before you laugh and claim that you would never make that mistake, ask yourself if you've accepted a vehicle in trade with no title. The only difference is the miles. Long-distance scammers count on you not being willing or able to travel 1000 miles to regain your property.

Fighting Back

These last two scams are initiated through an Internet contact. The U.S. Government has set up a website where Internet crime victims can report a crime and alert an appropriate agency. This website is www.iC3.gov.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is an alliance between the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). IC3's mission is to address crime committed over the Internet. For victims of Internet crime, IC3 provides a convenient and easy way to alert authorities of a suspected violation. For law enforcement and regulatory agencies, IC3 offers a central repository for complaints related to Internet crime, uses the information to quantify patterns and provides timely statistical data of current trends.

When you are the victim, or target, of an Internet scam you help everyone by reporting your experience to the IC3.

If you have additional questions about this subject please contact the WATDA Answer Place team at (608) 251-5577