Chattanooga car dealer is victim in website auto scam
By Kevin Walters
The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) is warning Tennessee consumers about a phony auto sales website posing as an actual Chattanooga auto wholesaler in order to swindle unsuspecting consumers.
TM Auto Sales is a small, Chattanooga-based auto wholesaler operated by Ray McKee and his wife. Licensed by the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission, TM Auto Sales has been in business since 2008, has no complaints filed against it and no official online presence.
However, TM Auto Sales staff recently discovered that unbeknownst to them, Internet scammers have set up a phony TM Auto Sales website using the dealer’s name, as well as its Conner Lane address, to lure in unsuspecting car shoppers. Details are still being uncovered about the scam and the scale of its impact. Thus far, all victims reside outside the State of Tennessee. One victim reportedly gave $60,000 to the scammers via bank transfer and another flew from New York State to Chattanooga to pick up his car — only to discover that the site was a sham and the car he thought he purchased does not exist.
“I want to warn people about what’s happened to us and what could happen to them if they attempt to buy a vehicle from this website,” said Ray McKee, who owns and operates TM Auto Sales with his wife. “We want to help consumers by telling them to avoid this website.”
The fictional TM Auto Sales site advertises discount prices on expensive high-end autos, a luxury pleasure boat and even has a fictitious TM Auto showroom. The scammers have posted phony testimonials as well as a phone number with a Chattanooga area code that connects to a voice-mail where callers can leave their information and have their call returned.
TM Auto Sales has contacted local and federal authorities about the matter in order to begin an investigation. TDCI has been contacted and the Motor Vehicle Commission has been informed of the fraudulent acts.
“Consumers should always remember that just because they see a deal on the Internet, it doesn’t mean it’s real,” said Motor Vehicle Commission Executive Director Paula J. Shaw. “Scammers are becoming more sophisticated every day. Consumers should always look before they buy and only buy from trusted, authenticated sources.”
If you believe you’ve been scammed or if you are the victim of identity theft, you should immediately contact all three major credit bureaus, creditors and law enforcement about the theft.