Subprime auto leads

Authorities in Tennessee are warning consumers about elaborate auto sales leads scams in Knoxville. Apparently, a website claiming to be Cupp’s Auto Sales, a longtime family-run dealership in the area, is offering special discounts on luxury cars and amazing subprime auto finance leads. There’s just one problem: The real Cupp’s Auto Sales doesn’t have a website.

The scammers’ website includes some information from the real Cupp’s, but lists its owner as a “Jason Cupp.” It lists a phone number with a Knoxville area code that, when dialed, connects to a voicemail.

The real Cupp’s owner is Will Cupp, and he was alerted to the scam when customers came to his lot asking about those luxury auto sales leads. He didn’t have any idea what they were talking about — not least of all because his dealership has only ever sold late-model used cars.

Cupp alerted the authorities, including local and state law enforcement and the state Motor Vehicle Commission.

“I’m just concerned about the victims,” Cupp said in a news release from the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. “I don’t want people to be scammed and lose any money. It’s a pretty elaborate scam, and I want people to steer clear of the website.”

In reality, the supposed car listings on the site probably didn’t exist at all. The scam would likely end with the supposed dealers asking buyers for extensive down payments, probably paid through a wire transfer — and never receive anything in return.

At the same time, it’s no wonder some buyers might be done in by attractive auto sales leads. The average car loan interest rate has risen from 4.13% back in May 2014 to 4.25% in May 2016, and the average borrower owes $17,966 in auto payments. Any chance to get a better car for a better price would be welcome.

However, as the old saying goes: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Consumers need to stay aware of potential scams, especially online.

Authorities have not said if anyone has actually fallen for the scam, or if they have been able to track down the perpetrators behind it. See more.

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