Fraud is an unfortunate part of our reality and that includes car sales. When looking at preowned cars, be wary of independent sellers and common fraud tactics intended to lure you into buying an unsafe or used up auto.
Curbstoning is a type of fraud where a dealer will pose as a private seller and sell “on the curb.” This is an unfortunate reality where dishonest dealers are trying to increase profits by selling volumes of unreliable cars. The reason dealers sell on the curb is to hide the fact that there may be some glaring problems with the vehicle, such as flood damage, VIN cloning or salvage title fraud. In many cases these cars have been totaled in other states and disguised under false identification numbers to fool the buyer. The best way to avoid being taken advantage of by a curbstoner is to buy from a reputable dealer. However, if you wish to buy from a private seller there are a few things to look out for. An insistence on a cash payment, an evocative emotional story about the urgency to sell or a suspiciously low price are three major indicators that you may be dealing with a curbstoner.
Odometer fraud is a serious offense but a quite common one. Scammers roll back the miles on the odometers of preowned cars to deceive the buyer into thinking it has far less miles. If a scammer is successful in doing this, the buyer ends up with far more miles than they imagined and likely a long list of repairs that it will soon need. Needless to say, this is a devastating scam for any potential buyer. It’s important to compare the odometer readings from service and inspection records for any irregularities or red flags.
Sellers may neglect to tell you that the vehicle you’re looking to purchase may have been in a major accident. If so, it’s possible that it has either suffered frame damage or improper reinstallation of the airbags. This is obviously a huge safety hazard and something the buyer should be well aware of before signing their name on the dotted line. Purchasing a car fax of the vehicle in question is a way to know for sure what type of damage it has suffered and the inspections and repairs it received thereafter.
Salvage Title Fraud
Salvage titles are those that are deemed unworthy of repair or total losses by insurance companies. This is likely due to theft or a devastating accident that caused severe damage to the frame and would require nearly half to all of the original price to properly restore it. Sometimes salvage titles are spruced up to appear as normal preowned cars and sold without the disclosure of their safety hazards. If you believe you are looking at a salvage title, ask a separate mechanic to inspect it before proceeding.
Purchasing from a list of preowned cars isn’t a scary task so long as you’re aware of the dangers of fraud and adequately protect and educate yourself.