In an effort to protect unsuspecting consumers from falling victim to unlicensed car dealers who often sell vehicles that are not what they seem, California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) investigators conducted a statewide undercover sting on Saturday, April 12, 2014.
"These unlicensed car dealers prey on consumers who struggle financially," said Kenny Ehrman, president of the Association of Motor Vehicle Investigators of California (AMVIC) and Unit A vice president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). "The vehicles are typically low end, some of which have been involved in collisions and not safely repaired, sometimes the odometer has been tampered with. These unlicensed dealers flip cars for money and don't take on the responsibilities associated with licensed car dealers. They pose at private sellers and often put buyers at risk."
During the statewide undercover sting, DMV investigators issued 93 citations, impounded 109 vehicles and arrested four people who had outstanding warrants. Unlicensed car dealers, sometimes called "curbstoners" can face several thousand dollars in fines and fees for each confiscated vehicle.
Consumers who purchase vehicles from unlicensed car dealers are at risk of becoming victims of fraud involving issues like odometer tampering, undisclosed frame damage, salvage rebuilt vehicles, faulty safety devices, mechanics or promissory liens and other problems that may not be truthfully disclosed at the time of sale. A consumer has no recourse!
Tips for consumers:
- Be suspicious of cars and vehicles suddenly parked in undesignated areas.
- Monitor free advertising sites, like Craigslist, for cases in which the same contact phone number appears on various private-party listings.
- Compare contact information on ‘For Sale’ signs to see if it is the same.
- Verify the name on the Certificate of Ownership (title) matches the seller’s name.
- Steer away from sellers who accept only cash and refuse checks or money orders.
- A curbstoner will not let you have the vehicle independently inspected or provide maintenance records that match the car.
- A curbstoner will not allow you to conduct a CarFax report because it will detail if the vehicle was sold at auction.