Fraud Car Sales Online Are Soaring In California

Fast money equals fast fraud. And opportunistic fraudsters are making big bucks selling stolen cars.

The State of California is warning residents of the state to be on the lookout for fraudulent car sales online. And it’s being driven upward by soaring used car prices and demand for vehicles. As car dealers’ inventories of used cars dwindle, car thieves are taking advantage of the shortage.

The DMV Issued a Warning Last Week

The California DMV is alerting Californians to be on the lookout for unscrupulous used car sellers who are luring unsuspecting consumers into buying stolen vehicles online. This warning comes after DMV investigators report an increase in this type of illegal activity, which is fueled by a shortage of new vehicles for sale, and consumers willing to pay more for used ones.

Car Thieves Create Fraudulent Titles And Sell Stolen Cars Online

Criminals exploiting the vehicle shortage steal a vehicle, alter the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), create a fraudulent certificate of title (commonly known as a pink slip), and advertise the car for sale online through sites such as Facebook Marketplace or Offer Up.

The car thieves use several tactics to encourage the buyer to take quick action, including listing the stolen vehicles well below market value, discounting the sale by thousands of dollars without negotiation, and telling potential buyers they have received several offers.

If It’s Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

“With an increase in stolen vehicles being sold online, we are reminding consumers that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is,” said DMV Director Steve Gordon. “Californians planning to make a large cash purchase of a vehicle from someone they do not know should proceed with caution.”

Consumers Can Take Steps To Protect Themselves

Consumers can take several steps to avoid inadvertently purchasing a stolen vehicle:

  • Obtain an online VIN history report or ask the seller to provide you with a report and compare the information to the vehicle being offered for sale
  • Compare the name of the owner on the title (pink slip) to the name of the seller
  • Insist on meeting the seller at a local DMV field office to complete the sale and vehicle transfer
  • Meet at a local law enforcement location to verify the vehicle before the transaction
  • As with all sales, buyers should take note of the seller’s car and attempt to confirm their identity

DMV investigators protect consumers and improve public safety through the investigation of complaints that often result in criminal or administrative actions. Consumers who believe they may have purchased a stolen vehicle with a fraudulent certificate of title are urged to contact DMV Investigations at (661) 836-2291.

I am Frank McKenna, a fraud expert from San Diego. The views and opinions expressed here are entirely my own and do not reflect those of Point Predictive.