Beware of "Cash for Clunkers" Scams

Posted: June 25, 2009

President Obama signed the cash for clunkers bill into law less than 24 hours ago, and already scams have started popping up.

CNNMoney reports, "Some purported ‘Cash for Clunkers' Web sites are asking consumers to provide personal information, including names, addresses and social security numbers, so they can ‘register' for the program, said Patricia Swift-Oladeinde, a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government agency assigned to administer the program. "

Luckily for consumers, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is on the case. The Truth About Cars says, "the agency in charge of implementing the Cash for Clunkers program gave us a heads-up that the Car Allowance Rebate System is already attracting "unauthorized identity appropriation."  Even if sites are legit, some are misleading, making it seem like consumers must register or get online quotes from participating dealers.

NHTSA spokesman Eric Bolton told USA Today about the scam sites: "Some want a lot of personal information, and talk about consumers being able to pre-register. Consumers don't have to register for this program at all." 

While there are a lot of legitimate sites with information on the cash for clunkers program (including ours), you should be wary of any site that says you have to register to participate in the program, or asks you for any personal information.  NHTSA reminds consumers, "You do not need a voucher and you are not required to sign up or enroll in this program. Participating new car dealers will apply a credit, reducing the price you pay at the time of your purchase or lease, provided the vehicle you buy or lease and the vehicle you trade in meet the program requirements. The dealer will then obtain reimbursement from the government."

In reality, there is only one official website for the program: www.cars.gov.  The site has an FAQ, links to the EPA's website (to see if your old car qualifies for the program) and a timeline for the program. You can even sign up for email updates so you'll know as soon as the program goes into effect.

Interested in taking advantage of cash for clunkers? Check out our full Cash for Clunkers page, where we've broken down the program and answered reader questions.  Be sure to also check out the latest Cash for Clunkers News, which has all the most recent updates about the program.  If you already know which car you want, you can contact local dealers here.