Perhaps an unfortunate incident involving a Florida man trying to buy a Ford F-150 could serve as appropriate evidence as to why working with reputable dealerships and finance companies might be best when purchasing a vehicle.
Over the past few years, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has warned consumers to be on the lookout for scams when buying a used vehicle.
Working with law enforcement officials in Daytona Beach, Fla., NICB has identified a number of online sales of vehicles using the mobile app OfferUp. Officials said these vehicles are listed below market value and are being sold with fake VIN numbers and/or phony titles.
NICB recapped that Anthony Callegari of Deltona, Fla., was looking to purchase a used truck as a birthday and graduation present. Using the app, Callegari found a 2017 Ford F-150 listed in Daytona Beach. After meeting the seller at a gas station, he test drove the truck and agreed to purchase it for $20,000 cash.
When he went to register the truck, officials told him the title was fake. He attempted to contact the seller to discuss the issue, only to find out that the phone number had already been disconnected.
Callegari notified the Daytona Beach Police and an investigator, accompanied by an NICB Special Agent, came out to inspect the truck. They discovered three other VIN plates glued under the fake VIN plate on the dashboard. The original VIN was from an F-150 that had been reported stolen in March and was deemed a total loss by the insurance company.
The officers also found a GPS tracking system in the glove box. Authorities believe the seller intended to track the truck and steal it. Since he only provided one key fob to the buyer, he could use the other key fob to steal the truck again.
Once it was stolen, NICB alleged the thief would quickly list it for sale again on the app with another fake VIN number and title.
Since the vehicle was stolen and the insurance company had paid the claim, police confiscated it, leaving Callegari without a truck and no recourse to regain his $20,000.
“Scams like these have all the appearances of being legitimate sales,” NICB president and chief executive officer Joe Wehrle said. “However, these alleged criminals are selling stolen VIN-switched vehicles, and the buyers are being scammed out of thousands of dollars.”
Recommendations that also could benefit wholesalers and used-car managers who scout the internet for inventory, the NICB offers these tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of vehicle cloning:
— Be careful when purchasing a used vehicle from someone advertising it online or in a newspaper.
— Any face-to-face meetings should take place at a location that is highly public, preferably at a police station.
— Use the free NICB VINCheck system and a vehicle history report to look for red flags.
— Have the title and VIN number checked by authorities before putting down any money.
— Trust your instincts. If a used-vehicle price sounds too good to be true, walk away.
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on its website.
More details about this scam are available through this NCIB video: