Vehicle Title Fraud Information

by Steve Smith
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Vehicle title fraud occurs when a dealer or private seller issues you a forged or incomplete car title. It is up to the car buyer to determine if the title is bad. However, if you are issued a fraudulent title you may seek legal restitution. There are several ways to tell if a title is bad. All used car titles must be properly inspected to ensure you are getting the original title.

The Basics

Vehicle title fraud takes many forms. The mileage on the vehicle title is often lowered, therefore, increasing the resale value of the car. Or a fake or forged title is created when the legal title is not possessed by the owner. The latter is more present today as advancements in printing technology allow anyone to create realistic forgeries at home.

Analyzing a Car Title

There is no absolute way to tell if a car title is a forgery. However, there are several red flags and warning signs to look for. First, if the title is from a different state, it is more likely to be a fraud. Second, if the car was recently purchased in your home state but has a new title issued, it may be a forged title. Finally, unclear printing, smudging or fuzzy rendering of the document itself is one more warning sign.

Verifying a Vehicle Title

If you suspect title fraud, verify the vehicle's title through the Department of Motor Vehicles or purchase a vehicle history report. If the information given to you by the DMV or the car report is not reflected in the car's title, it is probably fraudulent. Mileage readings and title changes or new title issues will be reported on the car history and available through the DMV. Title information is considered public information.

Problems with Title Fraud

Title fraud hides past accidents or major problems with vehicles because the new title will not reflect these problems. For instance, a fraudulent title created for a used car that has had a salvage title issued shows that the car is in original form, and not a salvage vehicle. This increases the price by thousands of dollars on some vehicles. Title fraud may also hide the fact that the car is stolen. If the original title is still out there, you may not be considered the actual owner of the vehicle.

Steps to Avoid Title Fraud

Demand to see the car title prior to signing a contract to purchase the vehicle. Always double-check the mileage on the car's dashboard with the mileage on the title. Review a complete accident history of a vehicle with a used car report prior to purchase. Or, get a free VIN check through the National Insurance Crime Bureau prior to purchase. Carefully inspect the car's under body to look for used parts, rusted parts or any other auto part that looks inferior or older than the vehicle itself. This is a sign the vehicle has been rebuilt or repaired extensively.

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