[ALERT] Car Buying Scams

Category: Auto

The Better Business Bureau is warning car sellers of a scam that can cost victims just a few dollars or all the hassles of identity theft. If you have bought or sold a used car, you’ve probably seen a “vehicle history report” from a service such as CarFax. Such a report may include information that can help you avoid buying a lemon, or help you get a higher price if you are selling. But it’s important to get vehicle history reports from reliable sources, to avoid being victimized. Whether you are buying or selling, here's what you need to know…

Avoid These Car Buying Pitfalls

If you're the seller, beware if a potential buyer asks for a vehicle history report from an unfamiliar company, especially if its only point of contact is a web site. It could be just a way to scam you for the cost of such a report, or it could be that all the personal info you use to buy the report will be stolen and used to impersonate you. It’s also possible to be infected by malware through a scam site. If you're the buyer, choose your own source for a vehicle history. Don’t try to save a few bucks by accepting the seller’s report - it may belong to a different vehicle, with the VIN number altered.

CarFax is the best-known vehicle history provider, offering a $39.99 report that lists Major Accidents, Structural Damage, Open Recalls, Registration History, Flood Damage, Service History, Last Reported Mileage, and other facts that have been reported about the car. You can search by VIN or plate number to get started. Other options include 3 Carfax reports for $59.99, or 6 Carfax reports for $99.99.

AutoCheck is another popular service, and offers a report with similar data points for $24.99. If you're evaluating a range or cars for possible purchase, you can purchase 25 reports over 21 days, for $49.99. Aside from the more favorable pricing, one unique feature here is the AutoCheck Score, a number from 0 to 100, based on a vehicle's history such as vehicle class and age, number of owners, accident and damage history, title brands, odometer readings etc. This score is used to compare vehicle's favorability against the entire market of vehicles with the same scoring system.

Used Car Buying Scams

Others automobile history providers are vetted by the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The NMVTIS was created by the Anti Car Theft Act of 1992 to help consumers avoid car theft and fraud. Insurance carriers, salvage yards, and junk yards are required by federal law to report certain information to NMVTIS, which in turn makes the info available to consumers, dealers, law enforcement, and other authorized parties.

The NMVTIS tracks several categories of info about a car:

The current state of title and last title date. This info helps prevent theft and title fraud.

The last reported odometer reading. This info helps prevent fraud that occurs when an odometer is rolled back, making it seem a vehicle has been driven fewer miles than it really has.

Brand history. A "brand," in the parlance of state motor vehicle titling agencies, is a label that describes a vehicle’s status, i. e., “hail damage,” “rebuilt,” “lien,” etc.. The NMVTIS keeps a history of every vehicle’s brands as they have been recorded by state titling agencies. A brand history flags critical incidents in a vehicle’s life. It can help a consumer avoid buying a vehicle that is unsafe, or paying too much.

“Total loss” and “salvage” histories reveal vehicles that have been sold to a recycler, junk yard, or salvage yard. You probably don’t want to drive one of those even if it has been repaired enough to limp along for a while.

The NMVTIS site lists ten commercial providers of vehicle history reports. Their prices range from $0 (VinCheck) to $39 (CarFax), and the information they contain is equally variable. Each vendor has its own sources of information in addition to the NMVTIS data.

It’s important to remember that no vehicle history report is completely accurate. It’s always best to take a used car to a trusted mechanic to have it inspected before purchasing. If the seller won’t agree to that, keep looking. And never take cash to a stranger’s home - or worse, a remote “storage lot” - to pay for a car. Likewise, don’t wire money to anyone. Meet in a well-lit public place, preferably where video cameras are rolling. Some police stations actually encourage people to meet in a designated part of their parking lots for transactions like this.

Do you have any car buying tips? Have you ever been scammed as a result of an automobile purchase? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "[ALERT] Car Buying Scams"

Posted by:

RandiO
15 Feb 2019

Inquiring minds [?] want to know, Mr. Rankin:
What used car did you (a consummate wise-consumer) end up buying?


Posted by:

Jay R
15 Feb 2019

Here's my tip. I bought a certified used Camry. (That's a Toyota thing. Others may have it. It was reasonable, and with proper maintenance, should last longer than I do.


Posted by:

Kalimero
15 Feb 2019

I don’t know about the other “suggested” websites, but I wouldn’t recommend Carfax. Seven years ago, I owned a new Ford Escape Hybrid. I purchased it new, after having “built” it at my dealership online. About two months after I took delivery, I had a report done on the SUV to check the reliability of the reports. Imagine my surprise when the Carfax report stated it had been in a vehicle accident (which it never had and never ended up having) with considerable damage. To this day, the vehicle still runs with over 135k miles on it and zero accident.


Posted by:

NiteCat
16 Feb 2019

As you said, the report is good only if the information is complete & accurate. There are states who report no more than the VIN, odometer reading and auto maintenance history. They do not report insurance claim history. My state is one of them. Go ahead, the reports will give you an idea of whether you should consider the car as a purchase, but it should NEVER replace taking it to your mechanic for a good going over. Or if you can afford the higher price, a certified used car is the next best. The dealer has to stand behind it when they certify.


Posted by:

cal67
17 Feb 2019

@NiteCat, I'm not sure what state you are in, but in Ontario a certified used car does not come with any warranty. I purchased one from a used car dealer that had an issue that could not possibly have been looked at by the certifying mechanic, and when I contacted the Ministry of Transportation they said that the safety certificate is not a guarantee of any sort - it only verifies that the vehicle is said to be safe on that day of the inspection. No warranty is part of the certificate. Same thing goes for the emissions test.


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