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Beware Of Unlicensed “Curbstone” Car Dealers

Purchasing a used vehicle can be a minefield of potential pitfalls, and one critical aspect often overlooked is the legitimacy of the seller. In today’s digital age, the rise of unlicensed dealers or “curbstoners” engaged in online car sales has become increasingly prevalent. It’s essential to grasp the risks associated with dealing with unlicensed sellers, as they operate outside the bounds of the law and often engage in fraudulent activities.

The Curbstoner Phenomenon: An Evolution

The term “curbstoner” originated from the practice of selling cars from the curb due to the absence of a dealer lot or license. Traditionally, these individuals relied on classified ads in newspapers. However, with the advent of the internet, unlicensed dealers can now easily operate online, evading regulatory scrutiny.

Why Unlicensed Dealers Pose a Significant Threat

Dealing with an unlicensed dealer can lead to numerous complications and potential legal consequences. Without the oversight and regulation imposed on licensed dealers, unscrupulous individuals may engage in fraudulent activities, posing a significant risk to unsuspecting buyers. Here’s a recent case that highlights the severity of such situations:

Case Study: Alleged Unlicensed Car Scheme

In a recent case, three individuals, including a high school football coach, were caught allegedly operating as unlicensed car dealers. The charges they faced included acting as car dealers without a license and engaging in odometer tampering, a federal crime.

Odometer Tampering: A Federal Offense

Odometer tampering involves manipulating the mileage of a vehicle, resulting in an inaccurate representation of its true usage. This illegal practice can significantly impact the vehicle’s value. In this particular case, investigators revealed that more than four million miles were rolled back, costing victims approximately $150,000. Odometer tampering is not to be taken lightly, as it constitutes a federal crime, leading to severe legal consequences.

Charges and Consequences

The accused individuals faced multiple felony counts, including odometer tampering, engaging in unlawful proceedings, and other offenses related to their unlicensed car dealings. This underscores the gravity with which authorities treat such actions.

Protect Yourself: Verify Dealers and Vehicles

To safeguard your interests when purchasing a used vehicle, it’s crucial to not only scrutinize the vehicle’s history but also thoroughly vet the legitimacy of the dealer. Here are some key steps to consider:

  1. Check for a Dealer’s License:
    • Legitimate dealers should have a valid license. Verify this through official channels to ensure you’re dealing with a reputable entity.
  2. Physical Location:
    • Legitimate dealers typically have a physical showroom or shop. Ensure the dealer has a verifiable business location, which is often a requirement for obtaining a dealer’s license.
  3. Online Reviews:
    • Look for reviews and feedback from other buyers. Legitimate dealers will often have an online presence with positive reviews.
  4. Background Check:
    • Research the dealer’s history, especially if there are any complaints or legal issues associated with their operations.

Stay Vigilant and Informed

While the allure of online car purchases may be enticing, it’s imperative to exercise caution and due diligence. Unlicensed dealers can be magnets for fraudulent activities, putting unsuspecting buyers at risk. By verifying both the vehicle’s history and the legitimacy of the seller, you can significantly mitigate potential risks and make informed decisions when navigating the complex landscape of used car transactions.

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