Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Dealership Craigslist Scam: Is Someone Selling Your Cars out From Under You?

Scam Alert graphic
How would you like to sell more vehicles off your dealership’s lot? This proposition sounds like a no-brainer, but what if your salespeople aren’t the ones selling them? And what if you don’t even know the vehicles have been sold?

Online marketplaces such as Craigslist, eBay Motors and Facebook Marketplace give you more ways to reach potential customers before they set foot in your store, but they’ve also given scammers a whole new way to take advantage of unsuspecting victims — including your dealership.

Fraudulent online vehicle sales have become so common and costly that the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center issued a warning to consumers. The warning describes how scammers will post photos of vehicles that aren’t in their possession and trick consumers into sending the money by providing a seemingly legitimate explanation of why the transaction is time sensitive. Of course, after the victim sends the money to the scammer, they never receive the vehicle they’ve purchased.

Now, some thieves are going to even greater lengths to carry out online vehicle scams.

How Thieves Sell Vehicles Right off a Dealer’s Lot


A man in Dallas, TX wanted to buy a truck. He started his search online and ended up purchasing a
truck he found on Craigslist. Unlike the victims of the scams described in the FBI’s warning, this man actually received the vehicle he’d purchased. The problem was it had come from a dealership in Huntsville, TX, and the dealership wasn’t aware the truck had been sold to the Dallas man.

The vehicle was one of several that had gone missing from the dealership’s lot, so the police conducted a surveillance operation. During the investigation, police uncovered the scam that led to the dealership’s vehicles being sold on Craigslist. Here’s how the scam works:

  • A thief lists vehicles from the dealer’s lot for sale on Craigslist.
  • The thief fields inquiries from interested parties.
  • After finding a buyer, the thief steals the vehicle from the dealership’s lot and sells it to the victim.

While this type of scam requires more effort on the thief’s part, it’s also easier for the scheme to go undetected. If a buyer never receives the vehicle they’ve paid for, they’ll know immediately that they’ve been scammed. If they receive a stolen vehicle, they often don’t realize it until later.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Dealership From Online Scams


There are two primary ways to protect your dealership from online vehicle sale fraud.

Protect Your Images

When consumers are searching for vehicles to buy, most prefer photos of the actual vehicle rather than stock photos. If thieves are able to steal photos of your inventory from your website or social media sites, that helps their listings look legitimate. There are a few steps you can take to prevent and detect photo theft:

  • Watermark your images.
  • Add a copyright notice.
  • Disable right click to prevent someone from downloading images (granted, this only works on your website, not on social media).
  • Do reverse image searches using Google Images to see if your photos are being used online without your permission. (To search by image, click the camera icon and either paste in the image’s URL or upload the file.)
Screenshot of Google Search by Image feature
Google Reverse Image Search

Of course, some of these steps are time-consuming and impractical. For example, your time is better spent selling vehicles than doing frequent reverse image searches of all your inventory.

Protect Your Keys

Key attached to key tag
Key Attached to Key Tag With Steel Ring
The most effective way to avoid vehicles being stolen from your lot is to make it more difficult for thieves to take the keys. Some thieves familiarize themselves with where your keys are kept or wait for someone to leave them unattended on a desk or counter, swiping them when the opportunity arises. Others use the key-swap scam, where they ask for the keys to a vehicle under the guise of inspecting or test driving it. They then hand the salesperson a dummy key and return later to steal the vehicle.

To thwart thieves, use an electronic key control method that allows only authorized users to access keys. Look for a system where keys are attached via a stainless steel ring to a system component such as a key tag to prevent a thief from swapping the key with a dummy key.

By taking these steps to secure your inventory, you can save your dealership thousands in inventory loss and help protect unsuspecting buyers from scammers.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Five of the Most Insecure Places to Store Your Business’s Keys

Keys hanging on hooks on wall
When you get home after a long day, what do you do with your keys? Do you toss them on a table near the door? Hang them on a hook in the entryway? Leave them in your purse or briefcase? Place them in a locked safe in a closet? If you’re like most people, your answer is probably one of the first three options. The reason is simple: Those places are convenient. Not many people take time to think about the most secure place to put their keys because they feel safe at home.

Unfortunately, that attitude of prioritizing convenience without regard to security often carries over into the workplace, and it’s risky. Failing to seriously consider where you keep your organization’s keys and how you control access to them — and by extension, the facilities, assets and data they protect — is asking for a security breach or theft.

If you’re wondering where you shouldn’t keep your keys, we’ve compiled a list of places organizations have stored keys that were later stolen. By learning from their mistakes, you’ll save yourself time, money and headaches.

Unlocked Box


If you keep important files or assets in a locked file cabinet, it may seem like it makes sense to throw the keys in a box, where the key is out of sight but still easily accessible. Unfortunately, we learned from one Florida police department that this approach comes with a greater risk of theft. The department kept confiscated cash in a locked filing cabinet and stored the keys in an unlocked box. Eventually, the keys disappeared, along with more than $225,000. Police suspected a civilian employee, but there wasn’t a verifiable audit trail to link the employee to the theft.

Plastic Tub


Plastic tubs are helpful for organizing office supplies, but they’re not ideal for storing keys. One university learned this lesson the hard way. While it was rekeying buildings after several keys had been stolen, a janitor reported that a plastic tub containing more keys had gone missing. The university then had to rekey a second time.

Desk Drawer


When you pack up for the night, it’s easy to throw keys in a desk drawer. Maybe that’s not their permanent home, and you reason that you’ll put them back in their proper place in the morning. However, that window of opportunity could be just what thieves need. At one dealership, a group of teens broke in one night and had no trouble stealing seven vehicles because they found the keys in desk drawers.

Cupholder


Putting keys in a vehicle’s cupholder is tempting if you know you’re going to be returning soon or if multiple people need access to the keys. However, drivers leaving keys in the cupholders of unlocked cars is a common reason for auto theft.

If you keep other types of keys on the ring, that puts other assets or facilities at risk as well. For example, a set of master keys was stolen from a university after an employee left the key ring in the cupholder of a golf cart he’d been driving. It was standard for the keys to be kept there so employees could easily access them. Unfortunately, it was also easy for the thief to take the keys without detection, and the investigation had to be suspended due to a lack of witnesses or suspects.

Bag or Briefcase


While it’s acceptable to keep a few business keys — such as the keys to your office, a filing cabinet and the fleet vehicle you’re driving for the day — in your bag or briefcase (assuming you don’t leave it unattended), it’s risky to routinely carry a complete set of business keys. For example, you wouldn’t want to tote around the keys to all the offices in your suite or all the vehicles in your fleet.

However, some people continue to do just that, whether because they prefer to take keys home with them at the end of each day or because they haven’t found a better place to keep them. This poor key control practice led to a nightmare for one dealership manager and an employee after they left a bag of vehicle keys on an office desk while they went to unlock the dealership’s gates one morning. By the time they returned, the keys were gone.

These examples of key control gone wrong are by no means exhaustive — there are countless other places you shouldn’t keep your business's keys. If you’re not sure if your method of managing keys is secure, ask yourself these three questions:
  • Is it difficult for unauthorized people to access keys?
  • Is it easy to prove who has used each key and why?
  • Can you immediately recognize when a key has gone missing?
If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to improve your key management. You might not have experienced a security breach related to lost or stolen keys yet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t. Is the illusion of convenience worth that risk?