Don't be fooled by VW buyback tricksters: Internet Scambusters #723
The VW buyback program, which was due to launch in late fall, compensates owners of certain Volkswagen and Audi diesel autos after the carmaker was found to have breached emission rules.
But owners could be hoodwinked by unscrupulous dealers into accepting low-ball offers for their car or be misled into buying a replacement vehicle.
In this week's issue, we'll show you how to avoid falling victim to these scammers and where to get the information you need to get the best deal.
Now, here we go...
Scammers Ready to Profit from VW Buyback Program
Are you (or someone you know) entitled to compensation under the $10 billion VW buyback program announced earlier this year by carmakers Volkswagen and Audi?
If so, watch out! You could be lined up for a scam.
To recap briefly, the two carmakers -- actually both part of the same company -- agreed under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to compensate owners of certain diesel models that were found to conceal that they were breaching emission rules.
Under the agreement, according to the FTC, the carmaker will buy back around 475,000 autos in the U.S. for much more than their current replacement value. They will also compensate people who lease their autos.
In both cases, these are principally 2.0 liter TDI models of VW Beetles, Golfs, Jettas and Passats, and Audi A3s.
Alternatively, VW has agreed to modify affected vehicles plus pay compensation to owners/leasers, once the proposed modifications have been approved by regulatory authorities.
So far, so good.
However, the FTC has warned that unscrupulous dealers and others may trick owners into selling vehicles to them for less than the compensation amounts and then claim the full compensation for themselves.
Some are even using the term "VW buyback" to suggest it's part of the official program, when it isn't.
This practice was even highlighted by the judge involved in the case, District Judge Breyer, a few weeks back, as "deceptive, adversely affecting the rights of some claimants."
Another danger is that owners could be misled into believing they have to use the money to buy another VW, Audi or even any model of replacement car, when this is not a requirement of the settlement and is not part of the deal.
The Commission has actually issued a warning to dealers not to suggest to claimants that they have to buy a replacement vehicle.
"Whether it's a private purchaser or an unscrupulous dealer, those buyers are just going to turn around and sell the car back to VW for more money through the court-approved buyback program," says the FTC
"If you participate in the buyback program, you can use the money for anything you want. You don't even have to buy a car with it. If anyone tells you something different -- for example, that you have to buy another VW or Audi car -- they're lying."
Furthermore, disreputable dealers may also try to pressure owners with "Act Now" type messages when, in fact, buyback claims can be submitted any time before September 2018 -- that's almost two years away!
The Commission urges affected motorists to contact them if they receive an offer or claims that are inaccurate with regard to time or financial limits under the buyback program. Use the FTC's complaints web pages.
"We worked very hard to get a fair deal for VW and Audi owners and lessees, and we don't want anyone to undermine it," the organization said.
So how do you find out what you're entitled to and how do you pursue your compensation claim?
Actually, it's quite simple. Check out the Volkswagen/Audi Diesel Emissions Settlement Program. Here you'll find videos on the settlement process and how to use the customer claims portal that's been set up to handle it.
You can find out exactly how much money you're entitled to by entering the vehicle identification number (VIN) for your car. You can also phone a special compensation hotline for details of your entitlement on 844-98-CLAIM.
The precise timing of the actual launch of the buyback was unclear at the time of writing. It was due to start in late fall; final details should be posted on the settlement site mentioned above.
In the meantime, if you do receive an offer for your car at any stage before or during the program, you should certainly compare it against the amount specified for your car on the website.
"What's your buyback amount from VW? And what's the offer?" the FTC tells potential VW buyback claimants who receive an offer. "Can you live with that difference? Know this: whoever buys your VW or Audi 2.0-liter diesel car now will take that buyback and make the extra money you'd miss out on. Maybe that's OK with you - but be sure it is before you sell."
Alert of the Week
You receive a call from your electricity company saying your latest bill is unpaid and that if you don't pay by a deadline time later that day, your power will be disconnected.
You'll need to speak to the company's financial department to make an immediate payment, the caller tells you, helpfully giving you the toll-free number to contact.
If you phone that number, the call will be answered with the name of the power company. Then you'll be asked for your account and credit card numbers including the security code on the back.
But it's all a scam, playing on your fears to scare you into taking action and giving away your card info.
The fact is that power companies do not act in this way to resolve unpaid bills, and they don't set cut-off deadlines without giving you several written warnings. Nor do they make telephone threats in this manner.
If you get one of these calls, which a Scambusters team member did recently, do what he did: stay calm, look up the power company's customer service number online, and call them, not the number your scam caller gave you.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!