One of the most questionable practices related to the Cash For Clunkers program has been nefarious types creating websites posing as helpful/official sites (the only official one is CARS.gov) and snagging personal data. A practice now endorsed by D-list celebs.
The most hilarious/awful instance of this practice we've yet seen is the "Cash For Clunkers Automotive Network," promoting sites like DineroPorSuCaracha.com and CashForClunkersHeadquarters.com with apparent endorsements from awful, terrible people like Angelica Vale of the original Mexican telenovela version of Ugly Betty, Dancing With The Stars non-star Christian de la Fuente Sabarots, and George W. Bush's Chief of the US Office of Citizenship. Wondering who they're targeting here?
While probably not outright illegal, the site appears to profit off unsuspecting users by taking their personal information and selling it to dealerships, helping those dealerships get higher search engine juice, or, at the very least, advertising from people coming through this portal. This would be considered a "service" if there was a need for a middleman. There isn't. Sites like the official one — Cars.gov — and other reputable consumer information sites exist that aren't selling off your data.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been out in front of this, trying to keep sites from crossing the line and they've met with some success.
"A number of them got straightened out and cleaned up their act a little bit and made it look like they had less of an official connection," said Rae Tyson of the NHTSA.
Unfortunately, not everyone is playing by the rules. if you go to CashForClunkersInformation.org (published by the same sneaky Level 5 Advertising behind these other sites) and click on their "about page" the hotlinked Cars.gov link actually goes to a Honda dealership in Queens, New York.
The NHTSA doesn't look kindly on this type of misdirection and hopes this was merely a mistake made by some sort of technician. If not, Tyson says they'll be getting a phone call from the feds.
We've had no reports of anyone getting directly ripped off from this type of behavior, but it's probably best to avoid unofficial sites with stupid names. Seriously folks, Clunkerz.com is not the official government website.