A mother of seven from Chicago’s South Side saved up thousands of dollars to purchase a used car online thinking she got a good deal, but months later police showed up at her front door saying the car was reported stolen.
Now, Latoya Maxwell is putting on a brave face for her kids, but said deep down she is struggling.
“It’s rough, like we’re going through a hard time right now,” she said. “I don’t like crying in front of my kids.”
The mother of seven is now out $3,500 and a car after she said she was scammed online.
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“Well, it’s a lot of heartache behind it because it ain’t like I’m getting this money off scheming,” said Maxwell. “I work for my money. I work hard for my money.”
Maxwell told NBC 5 she saved up money to purchase a used car for her family. She spent months researching and thought she was getting a good deal after seeing a listing through an online marketplace for a 2009 Blue Honda Pilot.
After exchanging several emails with the seller in January, she made the trip from Chicago to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to pick up the car. Maxwell shared a picture she took of the seller, who also agreed to drive her car back to Chicago with his wife.
“We took them to the Greyhound, paid for their ticket home, gave them money, fed them,” she said.
Maxwell said she registered her car with the Secretary of State's Office in February, but last month she came home to her house surrounded by police.
“First off, I’m looking like, they got the wrong house,” she said. “I ain’t no criminal. I don’t get in trouble. I don’t have a criminal background.”
Investigators with the Illinois Statewide Auto Theft Task Force told her the car was reported stolen in South Dakota and towed her car. Maxwell is beyond frustrated and has one message for the people who she said scammed her.
“There are actually people who are out here who work for their money not sitting on their butts scamming to get money,” she said. “Like you ain’t just take from me you took from my kids.”
The Illinois Statewide Auto Theft Force launched a year and a half ago. The task force under the watch of the Secretary of State has investigated more than 1,500 cases resulting in 217 criminal charges so far. A spokesperson told NBC 5 Maxwell’s case is still under investigation.
Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau is urging people to be careful when making a big purchase online.
“The Better Business Bureau can assure you online reports of scams, especially on an online marketplace, is one of our riskiest scams across the country. There’s no website that’s 100% safe,” said President and CEO Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.
Bernas said consumers should watch out for deals that seem too good to be true, do research on the seller, use a credit card to make a purchase online, and to always do business with people you can trust.
“I’m never shopping online,” said Maxwell. “I’m never gonna buy anything over the internet anymore.”
Maxwell has not been able to reach the seller by email or by phone. She’s in the process of filing a report with the Sioux Falls Police Department.