What to Do When an Auto Dealer Defrauds You


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Two Orlando, Florida car dealers recently made headlines when they were caught in a scheme to defraud customers. When you buy and sell cars at a dealership, you expect things to go smoothly; expect the dealer to follow the law. But if the dealer defrauds you, what are your options?

In the Orlando, Florida case, the car dealers scammed more than $250,000 from car buyers and sellers. In their scam, the dealers would buy cars, falsify paperwork, then re-sell the cars, pocketing the profit. One person who had sold a car to the dealership finally brought the scam to an end when the checks she had been provided bounced. After several attempts to resolve the matter, she finally turned to the authorities and pressed charges.

Obviously this is not the only way that a dealership could defraud those buying and selling cars on their lot, but it is an example of how one of the largest single investments many people make aside from their home can be the subject of someone's nefarious scheming. Unfortunately, the law can only do so much to redress wrongs such as these. In the case of the Orlando victim, given that the check she was provided bounced, the dealers may lack the resources to make her whole again. Although she may obtain the satisfaction of seeing the wrong-doers jailed, she will still be without the full value of her traded vehicle. As a result, the best way to handle auto dealer fraud is to be aware of the warning signs and avoid the situation, if possible. For example, smaller dealerships, providing cash or checks rather than paying off auto financing directly, and any other thing that makes you feel uncomfortable may be a sign that things are not right and that you should take your business elsewhere.

But, if it is too late, what options do you have available? Obviously, the first thing you should do is contact the police. They may be able to straighten things out, even if you do not have to file charges. Often the mere threat of police action is enough to resolve these kinds of disputes. But, if charges do need to be filed, do it and follow through. Cooperate fully with the prosecution and investigators or you may end up losing your opportunity to recover from the dealership.

Whether the prosecution is unable to obtain a conviction, drops the charges, or is unable to get you a full payoff, you may also be able to bring your own civil action. You may have civil actions for fraud, misrepresentation, conversion, civil theft, false advertising, unfair trade practices, or other claims based on the unique facts of your case. As a result, you will want to consult with an attorney who can assist you in investigating and prosecuting your claims. In some instances, the fraud may have been the final manifestation of the dealers own financial woes, so you may have a hard time collecting. Your attorney will be able to help you investigate other means of recovery, including insurance policies, personal judgments, and other remedies.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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