Common Used Car Fraud Schemes

Here are some common schemes. Be aware before you buy and after consult a lawyer.

VIN Cloning

Masking a vehicle’s true identity by using a different identification mark, the VIN, constitutes VIN cloning. Sometimes a car has been in an accident and parts from two vehicles are combined.

Tips: Personally inspect the car you want to purchase, preferably with a trusted mechanic. Check the VIN plates for erasures and other signs of forgery.


Some use car dealers can pretend to be a private seller. The dealer disguises one of their agents as a private seller and sends him off, along with the car being sold, to a public space (usually a parking lot) to trick victims into thinking that they are engaging in a private sale.There can be several reasons. Obscuring the identity of the true seller can frustrate a buyer seeking a refund or compensation for repair costs. ,

Tips: As stated above, curbstoning happens often in public areas. Avoid buying cars being sold on parking lots, roadsides, and other locations that are frequented by passersby. If you found out about a car sale through a classified ad, see if the contact number provided appears in other lists. If it does, it might belong to a dealer. The name assigned to the title should match the driver’s license of the seller. Otherwise, it’s a telltale sign of curbstoning. Scammers also usually do not provide a fixed address so they can easily change locations without being caught or detected. You may check the plates using’s free plate lookup tool to confirm the accuracy of the details shown on a VIN.

Title Washing

There are different titling procedures in every state. A department of motor vehicles in a certain state may choose to leave out details on a car’s records if their regulations do not require it. Because of this, fraudsters could “wash away” a title such as “salvage” or “total loss” each time they register a vehicle in a different state. They can remove more titles by repeating the process. Once the title record is deemed clean, the vehicle could then be sold at a higher price than its actual worth. Tips: To reveal if a car has a prior “salvage” status and other undisclosed issues, run a free VIN Check history report.

Fake Certified Used Car

This scam is akin to VIN Cloning, but instead of VINs being modified, scammers use fake certifications to represent a vehicle as a “certified used car.” If there’s any inspection done on a car, it doesn’t comply with the manufacturer’s guidelines. Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Vehicles, as they are officially known, are expected to be thoroughly checked and fixed by their official manufacturers/dealers before being released again to the public. That is why they tend to have higher market values than their non-certified counterparts.

Tips: If you were looking for a CPO unit in a dealership, make sure you buy from the actual dealership of the brand (e.g., purchase a Ford CPO unit only if it is being sold by an official Ford dealership). It would be safer than buying a unit from an unofficial dealer.

Odometer Fraud

An odometer fraud happens when a seller sells a vehicle with altered mileage. While many consumers allege the ealer change the mileage, that’s rare and even rarer to be able to prove that. More commonly, it buys a car that it know had an altered odometer, and charges the dealership with violation of the Consumer Fraud Act or Deceptive Practices Law for making false statements about mileage.

Check the maintenance, titling and registration records for any signs of revision or tampering. The details shown by old records should be chronologically consistent with the vehicle’s displayed mileage.

Lowball Price Scam

In a car sale, this scam happens when a sales agent agreed to a very low price after bargaining, only to tell their client the agreed price was not approved during the contract’s signing off phase. Since the client would not want their time and effort wasted, they might be forced to push through with the deal despite the change in prices.

Warranty Scam

Some sellers may lie about a car’s active warranty coverage, resorting to high-pressure tactics and phony papers to convince their customers. While it is possible that the warranties are still active, their validity could be voided due to certain conditions (for instance, if they have been in an accident before).

In addition, the dealer could be working with an affiliated warranty provider who just wants to promote their services. The latter may offer a “warranty extension” by telling the car buyer that the unit’s warranty has “expired.”

Victim of a Used Car Fraud, Call the Law Office of Howard Gutman for a free consultation (973) 598-1980

The car is out of service again and the dealer is not returning my calls.

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