The deal of a lifetime?
For most people, buying a vehicle will be their biggest investment — next to purchasing a home. With some used vehicles valued at over $50,000, purchasers need to be vigilant and research before they buy a used car. While buying a used vehicle could save you thousands of dollars, it also comes with risks.
With supply chain issues, the world has seen a dramatic increase in both new and used vehicle prices. Dishonest sellers and fraud actors see this as an opportunity to profit at the expense of desperate buyers. This will often involve altering a vehicle or, in some cases, selling a vehicle that has been stolen. Not only could such a purchase affect you financially, a vehicle that is not as advertised could also impact the safety of you, your loved ones and others on the road.
A common tactic used by fraud actors to “increase” the value of a used vehicle involves rolling back the vehicle’s odometer. Odometer readings reflect the distance a vehicle has travelled and are the largest factor in determining the price of a used vehicle. Today’s modern odometers can be altered with the use of specialized tools.
Another technique employed by sophisticated criminals is selling stolen vehicles. Once a vehicle is stolen, thieves immediately alter (or remove) the vehicle identification number (VIN) and replace it with a VIN from a similar vehicle that is not stolen.
What can you do to protect youself?
- Before purchasing, take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic to verify its condition. Instruct your mechanic to look for signs that the vehicle was in a collision, or signs that it has more kilometres than advertised;
- Check the VIN number displayed on the dash. Does it look like something the vehicle manufacturer would have made? Your mechanic can verify the VIN number through the vehicle’s computer;
- A useful resource is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web site. By entering the VIN number into the VIN decoder, it will provide a basic description of the vehicle associated to the VIN entered. https://vpic.nhtsa.dot.gov/decoder/
- To verify a vehicle is not stolen, go to the Canadian Police Information Centre web page. Items reported stolen can be searched by VIN or serial number. This page works for vehicles, most household electronics, boats, bicycles and firearms. https://www.cpic-cipc.ca/index-eng.htm
- Use an online vehicle history report such as Carfax. There is a minimal cost for this report, but it’s useful for verifying the odometer, reported collisions or if a duplicate VIN is being used. Information on a Carfax report is not always fully complete, but it can be used as a guide. It should not be used as the sole basis for your decision to purchase your vehicle;
- Verify the seller’s identity by asking for identification. Compare the photo identification to the seller. Ensure the vehicle registration has the same name as the seller;
- Cash is not king. Cash purchases for used vehicles make it more difficult for Police to investigate some of the scenarios mentioned in this article. To protect yourself, some suggested payment methods when buying a vehicle include certified cheque, money order or bank draft. These payment methods are traceable and could help police with an investigation if required;
- Out-of-province deals are rarely ‘deals’. Criminals take advantage of out-of-province buyers as the odds of having a vehicle checked decrease with the increased distance.
Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Winnipeg Police Service
Fraud Awareness Month
March is Fraud Prevention Month, so the Free Press Community Review is running stories from the Winnipeg Police Service which outline common fraud schemes and offer tips on how to avoid them.