Gail Alfar with the Tesla Owners Club of Austin shared some scary news with me this past week. Scammers are targeting Tesla owners in Austin. She shared the letter the scammers sent her. It’s hard to tell at first glance in the photos below.
The letter looks official and many could fall for the scam. Please note, I blotted out Gail’s address for obvious reasons. The letter reads as follows:
ATTENTION: Gail Alfar,
This letter is to inform you based on (unreadable), we have issued an active 14 day Vehicle Theft Location and Recovery service for your vehicle (unreadable) is st to expire on 1/25/2021.
Without an active registration, your service will expire and your vehicle may be more “At Risk” to be a target of motor vehicle theft. Police and law enforcement agencies will not have access to track your vehicle back to you through the National Theft Search and Recovery database without fully registering your vehicle.
In the event of a theft, and your vehicle is not recovered within 24 hours, National Theft Search and Recovery’s Buy Back policy will be applied.
Any Tesla Dealership.
Registration is REQUIRED for your vehicle to CONTINUE VPR Tracking service and to receive your COMPLIMENTARY Police Traceable Decals. 12 months of Identity Theft Recovery services will be included with your registration.
First of all, there is no such thing as a Tesla dealership, and anyone who owns a Tesla knows this. Tesla has service centers, not dealerships. Gail told me that her husband said there are definitely vulnerable people who fall for these scams. “He said especially people who are much older, and see the personalization on the header of the envelope.”
She told me the letter arrived in the mail and she offered to ask members of the Tesla Owners Club of Austin if they received a similar letter. When I told her yes, she got back to me within minutes.
One of the members told her that on the official Tesla forums website the so-called “National Theft Search and Recovery” is listed as a scam and it has been going on for a while. You can learn more about that here.
Gail told me some members didn’t receive the letter, others did and threw it in the trash. One member, Gene Preston, did research and told Gail (and also gave me permission to include his message to her):
“Here is what it does: ‘VPR Tracking is used by law enforcement in many counties throughout our country. Unfortunately not every police precinct has the budget for a system as sophisticated as this. That’s where we come in.
“‘Our services scan approximately 500 Million plates scanned each month for vehicle locating giving us the latitude and longitude coordinates.’ We already track our cars through the phone app. Why would we want law enforcement tracking us?”
Gene also noted that there is a webpage for the scam but that if law enforcement wasn’t using it then it could be a scam — webpage included.
“Several people from the club are concerned that it’s a scam & it might be a privacy issue. The emails keep pouring in!” Gail told me.
Doing More Digging
The address provided for the business, as you can see in the photo, shows that the “business” is located in Amarillo, TX. I googled the full address — both suite numbers. Now, if a legitimate business was in operation, that address would pull up the business name. I even looked up the address on Facebook. If the business was real, it would probably have a Facebook page. Same for LinkedIn.
When Googling the address with the suite number, 2100–1001, I discovered that not only was there no business listed with that address, but the building is called the FirstBank Southwest Tower. I did find that J.P. Morgan Chase has a branch at suite 100 there.
The next steps I took were to do a business search with Amarillo’s business directory. So I typed in the information from the return address on Gail’s letter. Amarillo’s business directory turned up zero results, which you can see in the short screen recording below.
Not ready to give up just yet, I went back to Google and performed a Google Maps search. The first thing that came up with the full address was Chase Tower. So I scoured through the listing of businesses that used #2100 as their floor number — there was a lot. However, I didn’t see the name “Registration Center NTSR” listed and that was the name used on the return address of Gail’s letter.
The next step was to do a search with the Texas Secretary of State. Although there were no results, it had some alternatives that I explored, but those didn’t match this particular business (which in my opinion is not legit). You can see my quick search in the video below.
There is another critical piece of information — the phone number. I didn’t call them, but I Googled the phone number and the first website I came across had several complaints that this was a scam and that they were targeting a variety of vehicle owners. It was quicker for me to do a screen recording, which is below.
It sounds like to me these scammers knew that if anyone searched the address, they would seem more legitimate if the address was a building such as FirstBank Southwest. The very floor they listed has law offices, doctor’s offices, and several other small and large businesses — not just on that floor but also in other parts of the building.
Now, I know this was an obvious scam just from the language, grammatical errors, and the fact that Tesla doesn’t have a dealership. But, if someone was to do a search on this name, not only will this article come up, but the detailed searches I’ve done may go on to help someone — prevent someone from falling for this scam.