Man scammed out of thousands after buying car online

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

How do you know a good deal from a bad one when you are shopping online?

One Chicago man claims he is the victim of a crime through Craigslist and he's out thousands of dollars as a result. He never saw it coming.

Willie Smith says he was shopping for a family car. He went to Craigslist and thought he was being smart about where he went, who he was with and when he made the purchase. He brought friends and sealed the deal in broad daylight.

But he was not smart enough apparently.

Police are the ones who broke the bad news that his newly purchased car was hot.

Willie paid $4300 cash for a 2007 powder blue Chrysler 300. He paid another $200 for the temporary plates.

There was even a title and bill of sales presented with signatures. A man calling himself Jose Ramirez claimed to be the seller and his name on the bottom line.

But hours after sealing the deal, police pulled him over to tell him his newly acquired car was stolen.

The Secretary of State's office says the vehicle identification number or VIN was registered to United Road Towing in Markham. Chicago police tracked the vin further and found a 38-year-old female who had her car stolen in August.

According to Willie, police impounded the car and had it taken to the Doty Tow Lot. He was forced to buy a new car, and can't figure out how it is that the dealer he bought from is still in business on craigslist.

WGN News tried reaching Jose Ramirez. Through an interpreter, Ramirez denied knowing anything about a stolen car and his Craigslist transaction with Willie. But that's about all he would say before abruptly hanging up.

As for Craigslist, here are a few tips to avoid getting scammed:

  • Deal locally and face-to-face. Doing so avoids 99% of scam attempts, Craigslist claims.
  • Never wire funds.
  • Do not rent or purchase anything sight unseen.
Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.