When you're buying a used car, it pays to do your homework. There's always a risk that someone's trying to sell you something that isn't really theirs. However, sometimes, you do all the checks and still get burned, as this harsh tale of a used Ford Bronco demonstrates.
As reported by AZ Family, an Arizona buyer was looking for a Ford Bronco on the used market. They spotted a solid-looking example on Craigslist. It wore Alaskan plates, with the odometer recording a few thousand miles as you'd expect. The buyer, known as "Nick" in the article to protect his identity, didn't just fork over $75,000 without making some inquiries. He first secured a Carfax check, which came back clean, and he ran the title through a Motor Vehicle Division office run by a third-party company in Phoenix.
“If there was any issues, the VIN would have flagged - I’m assuming in the system that they have. And it didn’t,” Nick told AZ Family. Despite doing his due diligence, all was not well with Nick's purchase. This came to light just three weeks later, when Nick decided to trade the Bronco for a pickup truck at a dealership. An employee at the dealership noticed a discrepancy with the vehicle's VIN, with further investigation revealed that the Bronco's VIN had been switched.
The Bronco was reportedly one of several vehicles recently stolen from a Ford factory lot in Detroit. Police ended up seizing the car, and Nick says he's now out the $75,000 he spent on the vehicle. Several other buyers have also fallen victim to this scam according to AZ Family, in New Mexico, Arizona, and Tennessee.
Police in Michigan have recently arrested seven individuals connected to the factory lot thefts. Reports note that some of the vehicles had titles created with stolen identities with addresses in Alaska.
Most people would expect that checking a car's numbers via both Carfax and a local government registry would be enough. What's odd is that a dealership was so easily able to uncover the issue that was missed by the third-party MVD office in Arizona. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Arizona Attorney General's Office has recently been critical of the Arizona Department of Transport and its weak oversight of third-party MVD operations. Several recent cases involved individuals receiving licences, ID cards, or vehicle titles without proper documentation or authorization.
Overall, it's a bitter pill to swallow for the aggrieved buyer. It's a lesson we all learn at some point—Craigslist can be a wild place, and you need to do whatever you can to vet what you're getting before you hand over the money. If you're looking at buying used, be sure to check the VIN in multiple places on the vehicle, and don't skimp on the background checks.
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