VIN cloning and curbstoning used car scams

VIN cloning and curbstoning used car scams

By Greg Collier

It seems like nothing evokes the feeling of a scam more than buying a used car. Even when using a licensed car dealer, many used car buyers still feel like they’re being scammed in one way or another. Buying from a private seller seems even more fraught with scams these days. So, here are two used car scams you may want to be on the lookout for, as they’re happening in a large part of the country.

The first scam we’re going to share today is one we’ve discussed before, and it’s called VIN cloning. This is when car thieves steal a car and replace the vehicle identification number (VIN) tags with VIN tags from a similar make and model.

This scam recently happened to a man in Phoenix. He found a Ford Bronco Raptor for sale on Craigslist for $75,000. When the man went to buy the truck, it had Alaska license plates on it. He was told the truck had been driven to Phoenix from Alaska. The man checked the truck’s history and no red flags appeared. He was even able to get the truck registered and insured with no problem.

It wasn’t until the man tried to trade in the truck at a dealership when a technician found a discrepancy in the VIN tags. The truck had been part of a massive car theft incident in Detroit, where numerous vehicles had been stolen from the Ford factory. Police took possession of the truck, which resulted in the man being out $75,000.

Unfortunately, there was not much the man could have done to protect himself. He did all his due diligence, and still fell victim to a rather costly scam. The only thing we can recommend is to avoid buying cars through Craigslist.

However, not many people can readily purchase a $75,000 truck. Many people just need a vehicle to take them to work or take their kids to school. And without a car, they may have no way of getting one. It’s difficult to do much of anything without a car in most of the country.

Scammers are preying upon people like this by selling them mechanically failing cars in a process called ‘curbstoning’. Curbstoning takes place when an individual without a dealer license engages in selling vehicles, often utilizing social media advertisements as a medium, and deliberately hides any underlying mechanical problems. The most significant warning sign in this situation is that the seller avoids transferring the car’s ownership into their name before completing a sale.

When someone has a desperate enough need for a vehicle, they may ignore any red flags that happen in a car sale like this. The danger is these cars could end up costing them more eventually due to mechanical failures or issues with registration and insurance.

To safeguard yourself from curbstoning, it’s essential to ensure that the seller possesses the title, and the name listed on that document corresponds with the name on the seller’s driver’s license.