The National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Spots report released Aug. 31, 2021, showed a significant spike in auto thefts for 2020, and that trend is continuing. Car thieves will attempt to sell many of those stolen cars to unsuspecting victims, including dealers,
through altering the vehicle identification number (VIN) to match a genuine duplicate title of a similar vehicle or by creating fake titles. Dealers can help stop this victimization by conducting good VIN inspections and reviewing titles. A VIN inspection involves verifying the vehicle’s VIN matches the VIN on the title or other document provided. It
is especially important if a fraudster has acquired a duplicate genuine title. Indications that a VIN has been tampered with can include:
• Two or more different VINs on
the vehicle – with the exception of
some motor homes or other two-stage manufactured vehicles
• Altered or missing VIN
• Evidence the VIN plates/tags
have been removed or replaced
• The Federal Standards Sticker (FSS) does not match the VIN or is missing, and there are other indications the VIN has been altered. Sometimes the VIN is genuine, but the title is not. A fake title may be identified by:
• Poor print quality, especially in the decorative border or type-written fonts
• Erasures or alterations
• The watermark is odd or missing if one is used by the state of issuance
• The title VIN may not match the VIN on the vehicle
Dealers certify they have physically inspected the VIN, its type and
condition when they sign the DMV VIN Inspection Form (735-0011).
If the dealer does not actually view the VIN but completes the form only
on the basis of the VIN on the title, the dealer may be subject to the civil
penalties listed below:
• Making a false statement of material fact on a DMV document
• False swearing relating to the regulation of a vehicle dealer business
Both violations can result in civil penalties of up to $1,000 per offense.
Either violation can also result in
sanctions up to and including permanent revocation of the dealer certificate and the right of the principals to apply for a new certificate.