Dealers Take Car Buyers For Ride

Jolien and Ben Caraballo were sold a lemon - not their Hyundai.

They love their car.

As CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta reports, it's their "deal" that was a lemon - one that cost them thousands.

Now, a group of car buyers, who were ripped off by more than $1,000, are suing their dealers for essentially the same scheme.

"These are trained con men," says Mickey Segal.

In nearly all of their contracts, finance charges were manipulated, unapproved extras were slipped in and sometimes signatures were forged so the deals would sail through the banks.

"They didn't even think about maybe grabbing the old contract and maybe trying to forge it," says Jolien Caraballo. "They just didn't care."

"You're not smart enough as a consumer to find a lot of these things, it's in the paperwork, hidden," says Beverly O'Connell.

Disgruntled consumers are not alone in accusing some car dealers of fraud. Industry insiders are now stepping off the showroom floor to blow the whistle.

"I was taught to steal money from people," says Duane Overhold, a former car salesman.

He says he was very good at it.

"The top in the field," says Overholt.

Now, Overholt is teaming up with trial lawyers to crack down on the industry.

So how'd he do it?

By "taking advantage of people who trusted in me," and by "looking at their weaknesses," he says.

Weaknesses, like customers who don't know what kind of financing they could get from a lender.

CBS sent a shopper into a Tennessee dealership with a hidden camera, where he was quoted an interest rate five to ten points higher than he could have gotten at a bank.

"That's the lowest we have found so far," the shopper is told.

That isn't against the law, but it can be the beginning of a dealer taking a customer for a ride.

"My specialty was doctoring the credit application and making you feel good about paying 12, 14 percent interest when you could have gotten six," says former finance manager Brett Sams.

Sams worked finance in Florida. He got the banks to sign off on doctored applications by stuffing extras into contracts, then drawing up two different sets of paperwork.

"We'd have to say that we put a DVD player in, so one copy would go to the lender, and one copy to you," says Sams. "No one would ever know."

"It's an evil practice that should stop," says Jack Fitgerald, a dealership owner.

Fitzgerald owns 35 dealerships in three states. He's calling on the big car manufacturers to stop these rip-offs by enforcing their contracts with the dealers: contracts that require the dealers to "lawfully" sell their cars with only "equipment or accessories requested by customer(s)."

"If you do dishonorable things, you can have your franchise taken away from you," says Fitzgerald.

"They hunted us," says Jolein Caraballo.

Industry pressure won't help Ben and Jolien Caraballo.

What they got was a crash course on how to steer clear of the lemons, the kind you sign on the dotted line.
For a look at how to get the best car deal, click here.
  • Jaime Holguin

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