California Launches Statewide Sweep of Curbstoners
If there is one state that has taken proactive measures to eliminate curbstoning, it’s California. In addition to actively identifying and prosecuting curbstoners, the California DMV is doing a fantastic job teaching consumers how to identify curbstoners, as well as the risks associated with buying from them, as evidenced by the following press release.
DMV Targets Unlicensed Car Dealers Posing As Private Sellers
Investigators Launch Statewide "Curbstoner" Enforcement Sweep
Sacramento – Protecting consumers from deceitful, unlicensed dealers was the mission of more than 160 investigators from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, who on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, fanned out across more than 50 cities targeting unscrupulous Curbstoners who prey on disadvantaged buyers by disguising themselves as private sellers with the intent of flipping unsafe, used vehicles.
Investigators said these unlicensed car dealers typically purchase "low end" vehicles from dealers, salvage yards and auctions, and usually do little, if any, mechanical or safety reconditioning. Undercover officers issued 163 citations during today's operation. Curbstoners can face several thousand dollars in fines and fees for each confiscated vehicle.
"Many times the vehicles curbstoners sell are crashes waiting to happen," said Investigations Deputy Director Kathryn Door. "By towing and issuing citations, we hope to wipe out their profit and prevent them from putting dangerous vehicles onto California roads. Curbstoners not only put unsuspecting consumers at risk, they also harm business and rob taxes and fees desperately needed to fund public services."
Investigators said curbstoners create 'pop-up' lots by parking multiple vehicles in one location, clogging city streets, public parking lots and private property. They also lure potential buyers by advertising on websites like Craigslist; using different seller names, but the same phone number.
This 2006 Mercedes Benz SUV is an example of the kind of cars curbstoners are selling to unsuspecting buyers. It was involved in an out-of-state accident and was so badly damaged it is not safe to drive. When investigators inspected the cosmetically refurbished vehicle (After), they found the frame had been welded together, it contained no air bags and the rear door did not line up.
TERMS, FACTS and TIPS:
- Curbstoning is the repeated, unlicensed "flipping" of used cars for profit.
- Curbstoners are people who actively and regularly buy and sell vehicles without a license, proper permits or a legally established place of business and who, many times, represent themselves as private sellers in order to attract buyers.
Nuisance: Curbstoners often turn high traffic areas into instant parking lots, lining up cars at gas stations, supermarkets, convenience stores, on private property or even the side of the road. They deprive shoppers of places to park and the inconvenience and unsightliness drives away business.
Fraud: Consumers can easily become victims of fraud involving issues like Odometer Tampering, Undisclosed Frame Damage or Salvage Rebuilt Vehicles, Faulty Safety Devices, Mechanics or Promissory Liens and other problems that may not be truthfully disclosed at the time of sale. A consumer has no recourse!
Criminal: The most common crime committed by Curbstoners is Tax Fraud. When an unsuspecting customer buys a car, the curbstoner will leave the title blank or "open." Without the curb stoner's name on the document, they are able to pocket the money (usually cash) and avoid paying State Sales Tax, Federal Income Tax and any other declarations that are legally required.
- Be suspicious of cars and vehicles suddenly parked in undesignated areas.
- Monitor free advertising sites, like Craigslist, for cases in which the same contact phone number appears on various private-party listings.
- Compare contact information on 'For Sale' signs to see if it is the same.
- Verify the name on the Certificate of Ownership (title) matches the seller's name.
- Steer away from sellers who accept only cash and refuse checks or money orders.
- A curbstoner will not let you have the vehicle independently inspected or provide maintenance records that match the car.
- A curbstoner will not allow you to conduct a CarFax report because it will detail if the vehicle was sold at auction.
Contact: Mike Marando, Armando Botello,
Jan Mendoza, Jaime Garza
Office of Public Affairs
2415 First Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95814
Photos courtesy of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.