New vehicle report scam targets people selling their vehicles
A new, bizarre scam is targeting people who are selling their vehicles online.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning this month about vehicle history report scams tricking consumers into giving up their personal information.
Here’s how it works:
You get a call or text from someone who claims to be interested in buying your car, but first, the buyer wants to see your car’s history report.
They ask you, the seller, to get a report from a specific website where you enter some information and pay about $20 by credit card for the vehicle history report.
Then, you send it to the buyer and never hear back from them.
Typically, the website you were directed to ends in “vin” which makes it seem like it has to do with your car’s vehicle identification number of VIN.
However, the Federal Trade Commission warns you should think twice if anyone asks you to do car-related business on a site ending in .vin.
It could be a ruse to get your personal information, including your credit card account number.
“It also could be a way for companies called ‘lead generators’ to get information, which they sell to third parties for advertising and marketing purposes,” said Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist with the FTC. “Your best bet--- play it safe.”
How to protect yourself
You can go to ftc.gov/usedcars for more information on vehicle history reports.
The National Motor Vehicle Title Information system operates the website vehiclehistory.gov, which includes a list of approved vendors of vehicle history reports.
It’s also a good idea to search online for the name of the supposed VIN report company by entering the name of the company, and words like “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”
The days of playing “guess-what’s-wrong-with-your-automobile” is long-gone. With most of the vehicles today being a lot smarter through computerization and better technology, auto repair and vehicle troubleshooting has become easier and smarter as well.
These days, you’ll notice more and more auto shops using handheld devices or plugging your vehicle into a console that lets the read the information from your engine system’s onboard computer. Most of the time, mechanics today read the DTC that they get from your vehicle.
So what exactly does DTC mean?
DTC, as you can already surmise from the title, is an acronym for “Diagnostic Trouble Codes”. Today’s computerized engine control system can up to a certain point self-diagnose to detect auto problems that could be affecting your vehicle’s emissions and engine performance. This also goes for the onboard systems and the antilock brake systems controlled by your engine’s computer.
When your engine control system detects a problem, the computer stores the diagnostic trouble code in its memory. This is the time that the “check engine” sign lights up. There are some automobiles today that can activate its special diagnostic mode by grounding some terminals found on the diagnostic connector. Doing so causes your “check engine” and other lights to flash out the problem code. But for most vehicles, to obtain the diagnostic trouble code, all you have to do is plug-in a diagnostic trouble code reader (DTC Reader) or scan tool into the computer system.
Finding A DTC Scan Tool or Reader
If you’re nowhere near any fully-equipped auto repair shop then you’ll be glad to know that there are many companies offering Diagnostic Trouble Code Readers and scan-tools at economical prices. The most inexpensive variants should cost you just around $60. Of course, the more advanced the device is, the more expensive it tends to be. If you can’t purchase your own DTC reader, then another option is to rent one from a rental center or an auto parts store.
Some auto shops will also run these diagnostic tests for a small fee, just make sure you get your auto checked regularly. If a problem is found, ask a mechanic from the shop to go over the details and codes with you so you can determine whether it’s your engine, exhaust or some other component that needs fixing or replacing.
To decipher the codes yourself, look up the diagnostic trouble codes on your automaker’s website or your owner’s manual.
This entry was posted on Friday, August 22nd, 2008 at 4:07 am and is filed under Auto Parts Shopping, Automobile Information, Car Maintenance, Detecting Auto Problem. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
What Paperwork Do I Need to Sell My Car?
In most states, the bare minimum you need to sell your car to another person or use it as a trade-in at a car dealership is a clear title to the vehicle. You may also need to produce the registration, provide a sworn odometer statement, and prepare a bill-of-sale that includes the vehicle’s description, mileage reading, sales price, and the delivery date for the purchase. If the car is still under warranty, you need to produce warranty documentation. It can be helpful for your buyer if you also provide them with maintenance records for the vehicle, such as a service record or receipts for major repairs.
Vehicle History Report
These days, hardly anyone buys a used car without seeing a vehicle history report. When you place your car ad, you will probably add your vehicle identification number to your ad. A VIN allows prospective buyers to look up your vehicle's history. If you're the first owner of your vehicle, that may be all you need. However, if you're not, you may want to take a look at the vehicle history report yourself to prepare for questions that buyers might have.
It's easy to say in your ad that your car has been well-maintained, but it's even better to have actual proof of this. Whether you did your own maintenance or had it done at a dealership or repair shop, any kind of records are valuable to prospective buyers. If you performed your vehicle's maintenance yourself, then records of the parts you bought can suffice.
If you happen to have a remaining warranty on your car that is transferable, then you'll want to have this on hand as well. Having this available can also justify a higher price on your vehicle. However, it's essential to have proof of this warranty ready for the potential buyer to see. It's also a good idea to have some contact information so that the buyer can quickly contact the provider and get the warranty in their name.
So you can protect yourself and make things clear to prospective buyers, have something in writing indicating that your car will be sold as-is. That means that you're not offering any warranties or buyback on the vehicle. By signing it, the buyer agrees that they are accepting all responsibility for the vehicle's condition and future repairs. After you receive payment, and the vehicle changes hands, then the matter is legally done.
If your vehicle is less than 10 years old and weighs 12,000 pounds or less, then the Truth in Mileage Act applies to you. This federal law requires anyone selling a vehicle to disclose the odometer reading to the buyer at the time of sale. The execution of this law may vary by state. Some states allow you to write the current mileage on the title, while others require you to get a separate form.
An odometer disclosure form typically requires the following:
- The vehicle's VIN, year, make, and model
- Buyer's name, address, and signature
- Seller's signature
- Current mileage
- Notary public seal or signature
If your used car is owned free and clear, then you probably have the vehicle title on hand. You can fill out space on it for transferring ownership and hand it over to the buyer. However, if your vehicle has a lien, then the title is likely in possession of a bank or other lienholder. To facilitate a sale in this situation, you'll have to call the bank or lender to get a current payoff. You'll then have to work it out with the buyer to make the payoff to the bank and then wait for the title to be sent over.
Bill of Sale
A bill of sale isn't generally an absolute requirement, but it's a good idea to have for the release of liability. This document lists the comprehensive terms of the sale. You can add the vehicle description, the odometer reading, the price, delivery date, statement of as-is condition, and the signatures of the buyer and seller. You can also get it notarized if you wish, and if you do, you'll need to prove your identity, so take your driver's license along. If there's any dispute after the sale, the signed-around bill of sale can protect you from any liability.
Selling Your Car
Once you're prepared with the paperwork to sell your car, then you're ready to move onto the logistics. Some things to consider include how to get payment, being prepared for any complications, and making sure to limit your liability. You should also make a checklist of what you need to do to complete the sale.
Such a list might look like this:
- Perform a smog test if required by your state
- Prepare a liability-release form and turn it in at the local DMV
- Gather any maintenance or parts records to show the buyer
- Remove the license plates from the car if your state requires it
- Remove all personal items, including things like the registration or pink slip from your glove compartment and any other areas in your car
- Gather all keys and any papers to transfer to the new owner
- Cancel your insurance on the car
One of the most critical parts of the car sale is getting paid for your car. The easiest way to deal with this is to accept only cash. If the buyer requests a receipt, you can provide the bill of sale. However, if your car is commanding a price well over $2,000, then it might be a better idea to deal with a cashier's check. The easiest way to conduct this transaction is for both buyer and seller to go to the seller's bank and complete the transfer. That way, it's in a safe place, and the buyer can be assured that everything is legit. In the case of a remote sale, then an escrow service can be used to verify funds between buyer and seller.
Limit Your Liability
Have you ever wondered what happens if someone buys your car and then gets into an accident? That is why you need to cover your bases as much as possible. A bill of sale and signed-over title in the hands of your buyer will help. You can also immediately get onto the DMV site and report the vehicle as sold. It's a good idea to cancel your insurance as soon as possible too.
What About Complications?
In another complicated scenario, what if the buyer contacts you the next day and wants to return the car? What if they claim that you didn't reveal a significant mechanical problem that suddenly turned up? The good thing is that most states consider an as-is sale as the default. That means there are no guarantees of anything after the sale. It also means that it's up to the buyer to do their due diligence in inspecting the vehicle. As the seller, you may want to encourage them to check it out as well thoroughly. It is another area where the bill of sale comes into play. If the buyer signed off on accepting the car as is, there is no recourse from their end.
Setting a Fair Asking Price
When you start deciding on a price, remember that you will likely have to field lower offers unless your car is very much in demand. With this in mind, you may want to set the price just above market value. Start by looking up your vehicle's value on Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. Then you may want to check sites like Craigslist to see what cars are selling for in your local area. Another thing to consider is where to round off. Many people search using the nearest $1,000. For example, if you list your car at $6,200 and it's worth under $6,000, you likely won't get those buyers capping their searches at $6,000. You might consider listing your car at $5,900 instead.
It's not just for selling houses. You don't have to spend a fortune to fix everything on your car, but you should at least give it a thorough wash and vacuum. You want car buyers to show up and immediately like the looks of the vehicle as it sits. That is especially important if you have had pets in your car.
Take Good Photos
The very first impression a buyer is likely to have is from your advertisement. Writing a good ad is essential, but even more important are quality pictures. Take pictures of your vehicle in good lighting and from several different angles. Photograph of the inside, including the front and back seats if applicable, and with the doors open. Take a full shot of the vehicle from the side, as well as from the front and back. You may also want to consider an engine shot and pictures of the tires to show tread wear. It's also a good idea to take a picture of the odometer to verify the mileage you are stating. A view of the underside isn't a bad idea either.
Where to List Your Car
There are many places to list your car online. Craigslist is very popular and available for the nominal fee of $5, but scams are still prevalent. More specialized sites include Autotrader, eBay Motors, and Car Gurus. If you're selling a rare or specialty vehicle, then you might consider various collector sites. Write your ad with any details that might add value, such as options or recent upgrades.
Save time and hassle by reviewing all offers carefully before getting back to the buyer. You should generally avoid the ones that sound generic or like they're contacting several listings at once. Lowball offers are likely not legit either.
Set Up the Meeting
Once you have a reasonable offer, set up a meeting place in a safe area, and have someone else with you. Ride along on the test drive, but resist the temptation to sell them the car. Just answer any questions they might have or point out anything they don't know about the vehicle. If everything checks out, then you can arrange payment and transfer ownership with the documents you've prepared.
To find out more specific information for selling your car, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state by clicking the appropriate link below.
Check Your Car's Value
Selling Your Car? Here is All the Paperwork You Will Need (California Edition)
Selling a car in California can be easy or complicated – depending on the situation. Usually, when you trade in or sell your car at a new or used car dealership, you sign a few papers and you are done. The dealership takes care of all the paperwork. However, if you want or need to sell your car to a private buyer, things are not that easy. A sale will usually involve a little legwork and a trip to your local DMV office, may be even a couple of trips.
So what paperwork do you need when selling your car privately? Fortunately, it’s not that complicated – we’ve got you covered! We’ve assembled a convenient checklist to help you get all your papers in order and sell your car legally and with a minimum of fuss. What follows are the most common forms you’ll need to sell your car to another party. It might also come in handy if you’re buying a car from someone else, in case they don’t have all the paperwork handy.
California Certificate of Title
On the front of the vehicle title, there are spaces for you, the seller, to record the date and your signature, two signatures if it is co-owned, releasing it to the buyer, whose information is in the second section. Be sure all form fields are fully completed and signed by both parties. The Mileage Disclosure section is required by law. Don’t forget to enter the mileage on the date of the sale and sign it.
Your vehicle title should always be kept in a safe place, as it is proof of ownership of your vehicle, and could be the only form you need to sell your vehicle. Part of the Title includes the Release of Liability, which you can mail to DMV or submit online. There are several other forms that may be required in some situations, though, before the transfer of your car is complete.
Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262)
This multi-purpose form is only available directly from California DMV, but is only necessary in certain situations. For example if power of attorney is required, or if the title is missing, or if there is not enough room on the Title for any required information. REG 262 includes the Odometer Disclosure Statement, Bill of Sale, and Power of Attorney (POA).
These are important sections to complete, as they legally establish the vehicle’s mileage and ownership trail. Odometer disclosure is mandatory on vehicles less than 10 model years old. The POA grants the buyer authority to sign further documents to take full ownership of the vehicle. Remember, both parties must sign this form.
Reg 262 is not available for download because it is printed on security paper. You can pick up a free copy of this form at your local DMV office.
Notice of Release of Liability (REG 138)
Until the vehicle is registered by the buyer, it still legally belongs to the seller, which can be a problem. If the buyer parks the car illegally or commits a crime with the vehicle, before it is re-registered, you could be held liable for damages. The Notice of Release of Liability should be filled out, signed by both parties, and mailed in within five days of the sale. Alternatively, submit REG 138 online.
Once this form is submitted, the seller is released from any liability if the buyer breaks the law with what is technically still your vehicle.
Download REG 138
Statement of Facts (REG 256)
This is another multi-purpose form that may be needed to clarify any information the DMV may need to complete a registration. Many sellers won’t need this form, but check with a DMV technician at a local Field Office or by calling 1-800-777-0133.
The seller might need to use this form to specify tax exemption status, smog exemption status, ask for a transfer only or title only, or name change. It might also be used to request a wheelchair lift or wheelchair carrier window decal or specify vehicle body changes.
Download REG 256
Application for Title or Registration REG 343
This is more for buying a car titled in a State other than California. If the vehicle has been titled out-of-state, then it will need a California Title. Before buying a car you plan on registering in California, though, make sure it can be registered California! Federal Emissions vehicles, for example, wouldn’t be eligible, because they don’t meet California emissions regulations.
Download REG 343
Affidavit for Transfer Without Probate California Titled Vehicle or Vessels Only (REG 5)
If the owner is deceased, then the seller will need to fill out this form and provide proof of ownership, by inheritance, of the car for sale.
Download REG 5
Vehicle Emission System Statement Smog (REG 139)
This smog certification statement is required for all vehicles, 1976 or newer gasoline vehicles and 1998 or newer diesel vehicles, in-State or out-of-State, whenever the vehicle is sold or transferred. Vehicles less than four model years old are exempt from this smog certification statement, as well as if the transfer is to an immediate family member, such as spouse, partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild. You can check the status of the last smog certification online.
This statement should be completed and signed by the seller and buyer if a smog certification has been performed in the last 90 days, so the buyer won’t have to get a new smog certification. Still, if the buyer doesn’t register the vehicle within 90 days of the previous certification, they’ll have to pay for a new smog certification.
Emissions is one of the few cases where the seller can be held liable for repairs. If the vehicle does not pass smog certification within 90 days of the transfer, the seller will be held responsible for costs related to the smog certification and any repairs necessary to bring it up to applicable emissions standards.
Also, it’s good to note that, if you are planning on registering a vehicle from out-of-State, make sure it has California emissions. Federal Emissions or 49-State Emissions vehicles cannot be registered in California, unless they are specifically exempted.
Download REG 139
Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title (REG 227)
If the original Title is missing, when selling a car to another party, the buyer will need to apply for a new Title. Both parties need to complete this form, as well as any lienholders, to facilitate the transfer of ownership and obtain a new Title.
Download REG 227
Lien Satisfied Title Holder Release (REG 166)
If the lienholder information box is filled, then a Lien Satisfied Title Holder Release Form (REG 166) needs to be completed to accompany the Title. If you’ve satisfied the lien, that is, paid off the lease or loan, then you should have gotten this form from the lienholder, that is, the bank or finance company. Leased and financed vehicles aren’t technical owned by driver, but by the finance institution. Because the bank has a vested interest in the vehicle, they keep track of it. Once the loan or lease is satisfied, that is, paid off, the vehicle then becomes the property of the driver, at which point the lienholder is removed from the Title.
In some States, like California, the lienholder keeps the Title until their vested interest in the vehicle is paid off, at which point they release the Title with the lienholder section signed, dated, and stamped. In other States, where the owner holds the Title, a lienholder release will automatically be released by the financial institution to accompany the Title. You you may have to contact the lienholder to have them complete and notarize that the lien has been satisfied and they no longer have a vested interest in the vehicle. With no lien on the Title, the owner is free to transfer or sell the car as they see fit.
Download REG 166
Too Much Paperwork?
Some of these forms you may not need at all, but don’t sweat it if you have filled out too many. Considering how busy the average DMV Field Office is, you don’t want to go in missing a piece of critical information.
Paperwork car dtc
Selling your car through an online classifieds site could get you more money than trading it in. But it could also make you an easy target for scammers posing as potential buyers.
If you’ve ever tried to sell a vehicle on Craigslist or another online marketplace, no doubt you’ve quickly received texts from people shortly after posting. These texts are usually from out-of-state numbers and the people texting seem to have similar stories. They are on vacation, but want to send someone to get the car, or they want you to use a delivery service to get the vehicle to them. These offers always sound fishy and raise red flags right away. I have received texts like this and always ignore them.
But a relatively new scam has popped up for those independently selling their cars that may not be so easy to spot.
My friend (we’ll call him John) listed his car for sale on a local classifieds website. He received a text from what seemed like a legitimate buyer asking questions about the car. The potential buyer, Henry, then asked John if he would send over the UVR papers. When John said he didn’t know what UVR meant, Henry texted a web address where John could get these papers to show information like recall, title and mileage verification. Henry mentioned he always bought and offered such reports when he sold vehicles online. John clicked on the website, paid $25 for the basic report and sent it to Henry. They set up a time to meet two days away. The very next day, Henry texted that he had a family emergency, needed to fly out of town and would let John know when he returned. John never heard from Henry again.
This scenario is annoying and cost John $25. But it got weirder from there.
Two of John’s colleagues were trying to sell their cars online around the same time. When he went in to work, one of them started telling a story of how he got duped by someone who texted him about buying his car, but demanded he purchase an auto vehicle report first. The story sounded familiar to John and to their third friend who had received the exact same texts.
As John and his two friends compared notes, they discovered each of their stories was identical. They all clicked on the website, paid $25 for a report and sent it. Shortly thereafter, the potential buyer ghosted each one of them.
The website they used to purchase these reports looks legitimate. The reports people can buy range from the basic $24.99 report up to a $220 executive option for reports on up to 50 vehicles. There is no phone number to reach the company, only a comment box.
I tried to text and call the number that allegedly belonged to Henry. The call is unable to go through. Shocker.
So at a minimum, these three men are out $25. At worst, cybercriminals now have their credit card and other personal information.
Although I’d never personally heard of this scam, the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau both warned about it more than a year ago.
“It might be a ruse to get your personal information, including your credit card account number,” according to the FTC. “It also could be a way for companies called ‘lead generators’ to get information, which they sell to third parties for advertising and marketing purposes.”
The Better Business Bureau reports that in some cases, one click on these websites could download malware on your computer.
None of those options are good.
To play it safe, find information about a vehicle’s current title and more at vehiclehistory.gov. It lists places you can get vehicle history reports that are approved by a division of the Department of Justice, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.
Be wary any time a potential buyer asks you to purchase something from a specific website.
If scammers do get the best of you, report it. The Better Business Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Trade Commission all offer ways for you to file a complaint. That way, you’ll have a record of your grievance and you can pass along your wisdom (and wave a red flag) to others who find themselves in a similar situation.
Is a bill of sale required in California?
While a bill of sale is not a legal requirement in California, it’s a good idea to have one if you sell or purchase a vehicle. There is no specific form required, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has a bill of sale form.
Can you write your own bill of sale?
If you want to make your own bill of sale document, you’ll typically want to include the following information:
- Date of vehicle sale.
- The seller’s full name and address.
- The buyer’s full name and address.
- Purchase amount.
- The vehicle’s year, make and model.
- The vehicle identification number (VIN).
- The mileage on the vehicle’s odometer.
- Vehicle warranty information, if applicable.
- Signatures of both the buyer and the seller.
After both parties sign the bill of sale, make a copy or take a picture of it. The buyer should keep the original bill of sale.
Can I register a car without a bill of sale in California?
You can register a car without a bill of sale in California. Within five days of the seller releasing ownership of the vehicle, the seller must submit a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability to the DMV. This form should have the buyer’s name, address and the vehicle-sale information. You can submit it online to the California DMV.
Other things to note
- The car buyer must go to the DMV to complete transfer of ownership within 10 days of the sale.
- According to California law, you must disclose the odometer reading: when you first register a vehicle, if you transfer ownership or if your vehicle is less than 10 years old.
- If the vehicle is gas-powered and more than four years old, a diesel-powered model made in 1998 or after, or weighs more than 14,000 pounds, you will need to obtain a smog certification.
- If you’re a California resident but are out of state and want to sell your vehicle, you can have someone else sell it by giving them limited power of attorney with this form.
- The California DMV has more information on selling a vehicle.
Insurance after selling a vehicle
Make sure to contact your car insurance company right away upon selling a vehicle. You don’t want to pay for insurance on a car you no longer own.
Updated Oct. 23, 2019
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