The RCMP in New Brunswick are warning Maritimers about an elaborate credit card scheme targeting car dealerships, which involves at least three provinces and overseas shipping.

Const. Sandy Savage, a member of the commercial crimes section, said the scam involves someone purchasing a vehicle over the phone and using stolen credit card information with a fake name.

The credit card information is typically authorized immediately and the sale goes through.

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RCMP Const. Sandy Savage says any merchants accepting credit cards over the phone are putting themselves at risk. (CBC)

In some cases, the actual credit card owner may be out of the country, or they might be corporate-issued credit cards so large purchases wouldn't be flagged by the credit card companies, said Savage.

But once the actual credit card owner realizes their card has been compromised and notifies their financial institution, the dealership is responsible for reimbursing the sale transaction to the financial institution, he said.

"And in that case, the car dealer is the victim twice — they have to reimburse the financial institution, and they're out their vehicle," he said.

RCMP are urging people to be vigilant because this type of fraud can affect any merchant or business.

"Merchants accepting credit cards over the phone are placing themselves at financial risk if they are unable to confirm the identity of the card owner," said Savage.

Veteran salesman fell victim

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Stephen Dickinson says he's been in the auto sales business for about 13 years and never had anything like this happen before. (CBC)

Stephen Dickinson, who sells cars in Woodstock, says the fraud happened to him.

A woman in Ontario, identifying herself as Rosa Brown, said she wanted to buy a 2007 Honda Accord for her sister, said Dickinson.

"We corresponded over probably a two-day period and, you know, [she] wanted to know if it was in an accident and wanted the car proof report and, you know, everything a normal customer would ask," he said.

Dickinson says he checked out the woman’s information and the payment went through on the MasterCard number she gave.

A day or two later, the car was transported by a Woodstock towing company to Moncton to join a larger shipment to Ontario.

The towing company soon realized it had been stiffed and called Dickinson to warn him.

"My heart pretty well thumped out of my chest," Dickinson said.

"It was like my goodness, I’ve never ever had this happen. I mean, I’ve been in the car business 13, 14 years and to have possibly, you know, a [$12,000]

, $13,000 car that could be gone."

Dickinson was lucky, however. Officials tracked down the Moncton driver before the car was delivered.

But RCMP say some vehicles have not been recovered, while others turned up in containers in Halifax and Toronto, ready to be shipped overseas.

Investigators are working with policing agencies both inside and outside New Brunswick to determine the person or people responsible.