When cash is not king

Seven On Your Side
August 2, 2010 2:53:55 PM PDT
The Queens flight attendant spent her job time in the air. But at home, she was grounded with no car. So she put down a hefty down payment, in cash at a dealership. And worse, she says a slippery salesman took off with her money. "It's stressful and frustrating." That's how Vanessa Lyte feels after, she says, a used car salesman took her $10,000 deposit and gave her nothing in return.

The St. Albans flight attendant says she's stuck and steaming, "I felt so stupid. He just ripped me off."

Back in March, Vanessa bought a used Infiniti for a little less than $30,000. It was the first car she's ever bought. That's why she says she made a rookie mistake, and gave a huge deposit, of ten grand; $500 on her credit card and $9500 in cash.

"My gut feeling was like, 'No, don't do it' but I'm like I'm gonna trust him." That was Vanessa's first mistake. What's worse? The money she put up and lost was left to her by her deceased father. "I still don't like to talk about it."

A few weeks after asking for a refund, she says the salesman stopped taking her calls. Another tip-off to a rip-off, the only number she ever called was the salesman's cellphone. Eventually, she called the dealership for help. But..."They just blew me off. They didn't care."

So 7 On Your Side called the dealership, a rep told us the salesman had been fired months ago. And the only deposit they took from Vanessa was the $500 deposit charged to her credit card.

But days after we called, the dealership reached out to Vanessa. "So together with them (the dealership) we're pressing charges against the employee 'cause he's is not there no more."

And most importantly, the dealership refunded the downpayment; $500 to her credit card, the rest in a check for $9500. After 4 months without, the money was a welcome sight for Vanessa.

"You don't know how happy I was. I was like, 'It's finally over.' It was such a relief."

The dealership thanked 7 On Your Side for bringing this story to their attention, saying they only knew about the $500 deposit, charged to her credit card. The head of the dealership told us, he didn't know anything about the additional $9500 given in cash.

The big tip here, always try to use a credit card or personal check when making a down payment. Credit card charges are the safest, since you can dispute incorrect charges. And if you're going to pay by check, avoid making the check out to "cash" or to an individual. That way, if you dispute it later, you will have documented proof the payment was made to a company, not a person.

Lastly, avoid leaving that large a down payment for a car. Typical downpayments are anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars.

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Story by: Nina Pineda


Produced by: Steve Livingstone CONNECT WITH NINA PINEDA AND 7 ON YOUR SIDE

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