BBB Tip: Vehicle Title Scam

As posted on April 30, 2018 on bbb.com

If you are selling your car or truck, a potential buyer may ask to see a vehicle history report. It’s usually a reasonable request, but it’s also the premise of a new scam. BBB Scam Tracker is receiving reports of a con that tricks sellers into purchasing vehicle reports through scam sites.

According to one BBB Scam Tracker report, a man looking to sell his vehicle posted an advertisement on a local website. He was contacted by someone who claimed to be interested in purchasing it. This potential buyer wanted a report on the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) and asked the seller to purchase one through an unfamiliar website.  Fortunately, this seller recognized the scam and reported it to BBB. But plenty of others have fallen for the con.

Some of these scam sites may simply be a way to steal $20 from unsuspecting customers. But if the site captures personal information, such as an address, driver’s license number, and/or credit card information, buying these reports opens up victims to the risk of ID theft. In other cases, the website link itself may be the scam, downloading malware to the victim’s computer.

Tips to Avoid This Scam:

Be wary if a potential buyer asks you to purchase something from a specific website as a condition for a sale. While an interested buyer may want a VIN report prior purchasing your vehicle, BBB suggests selecting the site yourself and checking it out on BBB.org

In the United States, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a division of the Department of Justice, provides a list of approved providers on their website, vehiclehistory.gov. Insurance carriers, salvage yards, and junk yards are required by federal law to report specific information to NMVTIS.

The following information is available through NMVTIS:

  • Information from a vehicle's current title
  • Information about the status of the vehicle, such as whether it’s been classified as “junk,” “salvage” or “flood”
  • The latest reported odometer reading
  • Reports of the vehicle being transferred or sold to an auto recycler, junk yard, or salvage yard

In Canada, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the national insurance industry association, offers vehicle history reports.

Scams to avoid when selling your vehicle:

Selling your car or truck through an online classifieds site may help you fetch a higher asking price.  Unfortunately, independent sellers are often targets for scams. In addition to the vehicle report scam, be sure to look out for these common warning signs:

  • Check or money order sent for more than the price of the vehicle. The buyer requests that you ship the car or truck and keep the overage. Checks or money orders should be confirmed as legitimate before the vehicle is delivered. See BBB.org/FakeCheckScam for more information.
  • Buyer offers full payment without even seeing the vehicle.
  • Buyer offers to pay through eBay’s Vehicle Purchase Protection program, when buying the vehicle through another website. eBay calls this fraud, and says their Vehicle Purchase Protection covers only certain vehicle transactions that are completed on eBay.com.