A title washing scam is a trick that gets rid of a salvaged vehicle’s “salvage” status.
Generally, cars that have been repaired after serious car wrecks or natural disasters, such as floods, take on a salvage status. While not all salvage cars are nightmares, per se, buyers do want to know what they’re taking on when buying one. However, by title washing, the seller can hide the fact that the car has been through any sort of damage.
Curbstoning is a scam involving car dealers posing as private sellers to avoid national and state regulations related to buying and selling cars. Often, these dealers will put up advertisements selling the vehicles as if they are the owners themselves.
Before you purchase a car from a private seller, check to make sure the seller’s driver’s license matches the name on the car title.
An odometer fraud scam happens when someone has tampered with a vehicle’s odometer to make it look as if the vehicle has lower mileage. Although digital odometers were once thought to be less susceptible to tampering, they’re actually just as easy to manipulate.
Whenever possible, ask for car maintenance records for the used car you’re considering, and try to match up the recordings to the actual current odometer reading.
When a seller pulls an escrow scam, he’s directed you to deposit money into a fake “escrow account.” Once the money arrives, the seller—and the vehicle—vanish.
Perhaps the best way to avoid an escrow scam is to do all business on a face to face, including the exchange of money. If you must use an escrow account, make sure you use a secured payment network. Research the network to find out exactly what happens if you get scammed.
Fake Certified Used Vehicle
Simply put, legitimate certified used vehicles can sell for more than their uncertified counterparts; therefore, some dealers think they can slap on a “certified” sticker and sell their used cars for more—and they often do.
Protect yourself from this scam by understanding that certified used vehicles come from franchised dealers only. If you’re looking for a true certified used car, visit a franchised dealership for that vehicle.
Lowball Price Scams
This one’s too easy. You call the dealership, get an extremely low quote, go the dealership to look at (and possibly fall in love with) the vehicle, only to find out the salesperson can’t get that price approved by the manager. However, now that they have you at the dealership, they assume you’re likely to buy a vehicle anyway.
Research the value of all used cars in which you’re interested before you visit or even call the dealership; that way, you’ll know if what the salesperson tells you is feasible and whether or not the dealership’s manager actually can offer you the deal.
Open Recall Scams
Unless it’s a serious safety issue, dealers are often legally allowed to sell cars with open recalls; however, any recall on a used vehicle you buy could put a nail in your tire, so to speak.
Before you buy a used car, research the vehicle for any open recallsand, if you’re still interested in the vehicle, negotiate accordingly with the dealer.
Sometimes, private sellers advertise their late model vehicles as still having active factory warranties. While this might be the case sometimes, other times warranties have been voided due to issues such as accidents, modifications, commercial use, and other factors.
Don’t just assume the seller’s telling the truth. Contact the manufacturer to find out if that specific car still has an active warranty, and ask for any additional warranty information specific to the car.
If a private seller claims he requires a deposit up front to take the used car off the market, steer clear. Unfortunately, some “sellers” will take the money and run.
Whenever possible, handle monetary transactions face to face and all at once. If the seller insists on a deposit, it might be time to look for a used car elsewhere.
Basically, this refers to buying a stolen car. The thief has taken the vehicle identification number (VIN) from another vehicle and attached it to the stolen vehicle.
You can help protect yourself against VIN cloning scams by looking for matching registration and title information as well as using common sense such as being wary of private sellers with no fixed addresses.
How to Check for Used Vehicle Tampering
Apart from trusting your gut, perhaps one of the simplest ways to check for used car tampering is to order a vehicle history report.
A vehicle history report gives you information about past ownership, accident history, flood and other natural disaster damage, faulty odometer settings, and even whether the car was determined to be a lemon.
Reporting Used Car Buying Scams
There are many ways you can handle used car buying scams.
If you purchased the used car at a dealership, report the dealership to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). You can use the BBB to report your own scams, as well as research used vehicle dealers to make sure others haven’t reported any used car buying scams from that dealership.
Also, you might consider contacting your state’s attorney general, who is the state’s chief legal advisor and law enf1rcement entity.
Do not forget the power of social media, too. There are numerous reputable websites that exist to help consumers share experiences and encourage—or warn—others about businesses practices.
Finally, if all else fails, consider seeking legal assistance. Unfortunately, sometimes you get scammed so severely that the only answer is to seek the legal help of an attorney with experience in used vehicle buying and selling laws in your state.