In 2019, Consumer Affairs reported 3 million cases of fraud, in which 15% were related to identity theft. In another report, The Federal Trade Commission estimates that about 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. As online transactions increase, so does the risk of being exposed to theft and fraud. Identity theft can come in many forms such as impersonation, fraud, financial, medical, criminal, and so on, and so forth. Whether you are the consumer who is a victim of identity theft, or a business on the receiving end of a scam, con artists do not discriminate on who they hurt – they just want to win.
As the automotive business shifts to a more digital platform during this pandemic, one of the biggest concerns that arise is identifying and avoiding cybertheft. Cybertheft has always been a sense of worry before, but as more and more sales are done online, dealers are more open to this vulnerability. Staying vigilant on following basic steps for protection is more important now than ever. It’s one thing when you have the customer in front of you; it is easier to pick up on body language, suspicious behavior, and of course spotting fake information. Online sales, however, tend to make it more difficult. The communication isn’t the same and most of the time you don’t know who is on the other side of the transaction until the very end – should you meet them upon delivery of the vehicle.
It is critical to keep certain practices at the forefront of every transaction. Collecting 2 forms of identification from the customer themselves and clearing “Red Flags” federal regulations are examples of practices that should be followed daily. These practices are easier to follow when the customer is in the showroom, however, can still be carried over to online sales as well. By getting the person on the phone via video conference (for example), helps to verify personal information, and making sure the person you are speaking to is the same person you have on paper. Same when the vehicle is being dropped off to the customer – best practice would be to collect a copy of their ID once again. The key is to make sure you are delivering the car to the right person. It is important to take these extra steps now as the threat of identity theft rises during this time. There are things that are just as, or even, more important than just “making the sale;” it is also about protecting the dealer and the end consumer.
Some dealers are well versed with working online sales, way before the pandemic shutdown, however, there are also those who are not used to doing so. In theory, online sales and offsite deliveries bring bigger hurdles for the dealer, and those dealers who are inexperienced with the process could have some growing pains as they learn to navigate a more digital world. Unfortunately, these dealers may be more vulnerable to cyber theft. Times like this make it important to partner up with vendors who have the capability to assist them with the right tools for digital retailing. Some can offer identification verification tools while others can assist with transmitting and storing sensitive information.
When the virus is over, some dealers may try to go back to “their normal (pre-virus) practices” while some will continue to offer full online sales as an alternative way to increase business. Whichever path is chosen, it is important to follow the procedure, so you are not caught on the receiving end of a scam. Whether the dealer is a veteran or a novice with remote selling, this is the time to perfect the best procedure for them, so they can be better prepared as the market changes.