Internet and social media technology opened the door to new marketplaces where consumers can buy just about everything, including cars and trucks. There are popular Facebook groups where people buy and sell new and used vehicles. There are cost benefits to buying directly from individual sellers, such as avoiding dealership fees and higher prices. Buyers with experience purchasing used cars and trucks may ask the seller if they can take the car to a local mechanic or have one come by and inspect the vehicle before they buy it. An experienced mechanic can inspect and offer their opinion on the condition of a car or truck, but they may not be able to know anything about its ownership history, much less knowing whether it was stolen. An advantage to buying from a reputable auto dealership may be their offer of a Carfax Report, which lists the known vehicle history. Despite the appearance of safely knowing what you are buying, even from a well-known dealership, they could mislead you, right into the front seat of a stolen car or truck.
Who steals and sells stolen cars and trucks?
From individuals looking to make a hot profit to organized crime rings, there are countless people involved in the illegal theft and sale of automobiles. Cars and trucks may disappear and quickly be shipped out of state or overseas. Likewise, stolen vehicles can be smuggled into the U.S. and end up for sale anywhere from big dealerships to local neighborhood car lots and the guy across town offering an amazing deal on the car or truck you really want.
While many of us think about the expensive import and sports cars as being the most likely to be stolen, that is not the case. The most stolen cars are also the most common vehicles you might see in average middle-class American driveways; they are easier to steal, have more valuable parts and higher resale values.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is a not-for-profit working with insurance companies to track, report and offer education about fighting fraud and crime. In its recent report, “Hot Wheels,” the NICB identified a list of the 10 most-stolen cars and trucks in the U.S. in the year 2014[i]:
- Honda Accord
- Honda Civic
- Ford Full Size Pickup
- Chevrolet Full Size Pickup
- Toyota Camry
- Dodge Full Size Pickup
- Dodge Caravan
- Nissan Altima
- Acura Integra
- Nissan Maxima
What can you do to prevent accidentally buying a stolen vehicle?
The NCIB offers a free vehicle identification number (VIN) check. Using the website https://www.nicb.org/vincheck you can enter the VIN of any vehicle you are considering purchasing and research the vehicle history. Specifically, the VINCheck database will tell you whether the VIN is reported as stolen, and whether the vehicle was listed as a total loss, following an insurance claim. So if the vehicle was reported stolen, its VIN should be on the NCIB database. However, if for some reason the vehicle was not reported as stolen, it may appear that the vehicle was legitimately acquired and offered for sale, despite the possibility it was stolen.
The CARFAX reporting system should have the information on every vehicle registered and on the road. If http://www.carfax.com/ does not have a report on the vehicle, you could either start asking questions or move onto another vehicle. You can purchase individual Carfax reports for $39, or for $49 you can get up to 5 reports, and for $54 you can obtain unlimited VIN reports for up to 60 days.
Despite your best consumer efforts, you still end up with the stolen vehicle, now what?
A few years back a Chicago area woman was more than surprised when local police and a tow truck arrived at her house to seize her Lexus SUV. The woman had absolutely no idea it had been stolen from another state, and its VIN switched out from another Lexus that was totaled in a junk yard. To add insult to injury, the woman stilled owed money to the lender who financed her purchase of a stolen car.
If you knowingly purchase a stolen vehicle you can be charged criminally. Most people do not know and have no reason to suspect the car is stolen, except for when the price is shockingly different from the fair market value of the vehicle, or the VIN is noticeably not the original, for example.
The day you become aware that you own a stolen vehicle, your first call should be to an experienced consumer law firm. The Zamparo Law Group, for example, can advise you of your rights and what recourse may be possible. If you bought the vehicle from a large dealership or local car company, their insurance may pay your claim for reimbursement for the money you paid in a fraudulent car purchase. If they don’t pay, a lawsuit may be filed and settled out of court or proceed to a court judgment. If you purchased the car from an individual seller, they could be long gone, and not likely to answer your calls or correspondence.
The Zamparo Law Group is advocating for consumers and sharing information about how to be more vigilant when buying a new vehicle, avoiding the stolen cars and trucks that might be sitting on the lot down the street or a neighbor’s driveway.
The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.
To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.
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