Local car dealer target of Canadian luxury vehicle scam

A Waco car dealership found itself among the victims of a scam that involved Canadian consumers being duped into spending thousands of dollars on luxury vehicles that did not exist, according to a Better Business Bureau press release.

Hillside Auto Sales, 2317 Franklin Ave., has received several calls from dissatisfied Canadian customers who may have been defrauded by a man going by the name of Henry Lopez, according to the press release.

Lopez claimed to manage Hillside Auto Sales and has coaxed at least one potential buyer to wire him $30,000 for a Mercedes-Benz automobile that never arrived, according to the press release. Lopez reportedly was using a bogus website to solicit sales of cars he didn’t have.

“There’s a guy that is posing as Hillside Auto Sales, which is my car lot, but he’s got this fictitious Internet site up with all elaborate cars like BMWs and Bentleys,” dealership owner Toby Hill said, according to the press release.

No such employee

The BBB quotes Hill as saying he does not employ anyone by the name of Henry Lopez and does not sell high-end vehicles.

“If you type my address on the Internet and do a 360-degree view, you can see that none of my cars are like what the scammer is claiming to sell,” Hill is quoted as saying in the Better Business Bureau press release.

Adam Price, Waco regional director for the BBB, said in a phone interview that the perpetrator of the scam apparently is feeling the heat of law enforcement and the BBB’s own investigation.

“The website he was using has been shut down, and callers to one of the fake phone numbers he had posted hear a constant busy signal. And those who call a second hear an error message,” Price said. “Definitely his means of communication is shut down.”

Before the changes to the phone lines and website, the BBB had called a number on the website, and a man who identified himself as Henry Lopez answered, according to the BBB press release.

“He said his business was different but at the same location” as Hillside Auto Sales, the press release states. “Lopez also said he also would be issuing refunds to all customers who didn’t receive their vehicle. However, when BBB asked when customers could expect to receive their refund, Lopez ended the call. BBB repeatedly tried to call Lopez back, but he never responded.”

A Waco police detective said the department does not have a case open since there aren’t any victims in its jurisdiction, according to the press release.

Hill, the dealership owner, told the BBB that Canadian law enforcement told him a victim had lost $108,000 in the scam.

RCMP investigation

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable is investigating, the BBB press release states.

Price, with the Waco-area BBB, said the scam did not come to the bureau’s attention until someone filed a complaint against Hillside.

“We found out from Mr. Toby Hill that he has never employed anyone by the name of Henry Lopez, that the phone number being called was not his, and he does not deal in luxury vehicles,” Price said. “If you look at the screen shots available on the fake website, you can tell the cars shown are not at Hillside.”

Price said online scams are becoming more prevalent as the public increasingly uses computers to make purchases.

“Know how your name is being used online. Google the name of your business and monitor the results,” Price said. “Phishing scams are prevalent, and they’re not going away. Con men prey on interest in a particular product, in this case luxury automobiles.”

Phishing scams involve imitating legitimate businesses.

According to the BBB, consumers who believe they may have become victims of a phishing scam should forward impersonators’ emails to the Anti Phishing Working Group, and victims of identity theft should visit www.identitytheft.com.