Beware 'Cash for Clunkers' scams, area BBB warns

Caution issued on companies offering paperwork assistance

AUSTIN—In late June, President Obama signed into law the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) or Cash for Clunkers program. CARS provides a rebate for consumers who trade in qualifying gas guzzlers for more energy efficient cars.

Unfortunately, even before the program began, scammers were attempting to exploit it and Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following guidance for car shoppers on how to participate in the program and avoid getting scammed.

According to the CARS program, car shoppers could qualify for the new CARS rebate starting last month and the program proved to be so popular that government funds began to run low even before the month was over. Under the original plan, $1 billion was set aside, but because those funds were almost immediately depleted, lawmakers followed up with another $2 billion.

"Because the Cash for Clunkers program is new, identity thieves know they have a better chance of getting sensitive personal information from consumers while looking like they are trying to offer assistance to participate in the program," said Carrie A. Hurt, president/CEO of BBB serving central, coastal and southwest Texas.

Even before the legislation passed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that web sites were soliciting information linames, addresses and Social

Security numbers in order reg ister people for t he pro gram.

The BBB serving Louisville, Kentucky, received reports from consumers who received phone calls with offers for help in filling out the paperwork to receive a voucher to participate in the program.

The Better Business Bureau offers the following guidance car buyers on the basics of the

CARS program:

• You do not need to register or receive a voucher to participate in the program. It is the responsibility of the dealership to fill out all appropriate paperwork.

• Not all dealers are participating in the program. Participating dealers must register with the Federal government.

• The program applies toward new cars and trucks that are either leased or purchased.

• Not all new vehicles will qualify for receiving the credit. The new vehicle must be priced less than $45,000 and passenger vehicles must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 22 miles per gallon.

• The amount of the credit is $3,500 or $4,500 depending upon the difference between the combined fuel economy of the vehicle that is traded in and that of the new vehicle. The credit will be applied toward the cost of the new car.

• Trade-ins that qualify must be no older that 25 years and have a combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less at the time it was originally purchased. Visit www.fueleconomy. gov to check the fuel economy of specific vehicles.


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