‘Cash for Clunkers’ Scams

Texans should exercise caution towards any Web sites offering registration for the federal government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program. Eligible vehicle owners do not need to register or provide personal information in order to participate in the program. Reliable information about the “Cash for Clunkers” program can be found online at cars.gov.

Congress recently approved the $1 billion Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program to provide credits of up to $4,500 to fuel-efficient car buyers who turn in older, gas-guzzling vehicles to be scrapped.

Given the anticipated popularity of the program, it has attracted the attention of scam artists looking to make a buck off ill-informed customers. Some of these Web sites request that visitors pre-register for the new vehicle rebates by either filling out an online credit application or providing their personal information. Texans should not provide this information via Web sites claiming to be affiliated with the “Cash for Clunkers” program.

Vehicle owners should check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which administers the rebate program if they have questions. The department has established a Web site, cars.gov, to provide Americans with information about the program. The Web site lists dealers who are registered for the rebate program. Texans can also contact dealers to ask whether they are participating in the program. Participating car dealers will apply a credit on new vehicle purchases and leases and then be reimbursed from the government program.

The “Cash for Clunkers” program is scheduled to expire Nov. 1.

Texans should report fraudulent attempts to obtain their personal information by any parties purporting to pre-register Texans for the Car Allowance Rebate System to the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Transportation at (800) 424-9071 or by e-mail at hotline@oig.dot.gov. Scams also can be reported to the Texas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 252-8011.

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Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

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ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.

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