Consumer Title Resource | Since 2009!

Top 5 Tips to Avoid Vehicle Title Scams

A vehicle title is a legal document that proves ownership of a particular vehicle. To transfer ownership of the vehicle, the prior owner must sign the title over, but how do you know if the title you have is legitimate before you buy?

Tip #1: Match the VIN on the vehicle with the title

On every certificate of title for a vehicle, the VIN will be present. Typically the VIN is 17 characters, but vehicles older than 1981 may contain less. The VIN is present inside of the vehicle in various areas, most commonly in the door and under the hood. Find at least 2-3 places on the vehicle where the VIN is present and verify that the VIN on the title matches the one on the vehicle.

Tip #2: Check the ID of the seller

Only the legally titled owner of the vehicle is authorized to sign over the title to the new owner. Check the certificate of title for the owner information and ask the seller to provide a valid photo ID to verify their identity. Oftentimes if the seller is not the actual owner, they may be attempting to jump titles or the vehicle may have been stolen. If the seller doesn’t want to prove their identity for verification, this may be a red flag that they’re involved in illegal activities.

Tip #3: Verify all liens are paid off

Check the lien section on the title for previous liens on the vehicle. Even if there is a signature in the lien section, it doesn’t mean it’s a valid signature. Contact the lienholder listed to verify that the lien has been paid off. If there’s a lien on the title, you won’t be able to transfer it until that lien has been released. Additionally, remember if there’s a lien on a vehicle, that vehicle is owned by the lender.

Tip #4: Verify the title number is current

At the top of the title will be the title number. If a title is reissued, the new title will be valid and will invalidate the old title. It’s possible that the title you’ve been given is an old title and a new title is already issued in someone else’s name. To check the status of the title number, contact your local DMV directly.

Tip #5: Check for signs of forgery

Titles cannot be issued from any other institution other than the DMV. If a title has been typed over or otherwise altered in an unofficial way, the title is considered forgery and is immediately deemed invalid. Additionally, check the title number against the current registration of the vehicle. If the title number on the registration does not match the title number of the certificate, it may be a false title.

When the vehicle title is signed over to you, make sure that the seller completes their part correctly. If not, it could leave you with a vehicle and no title. Keeping yourself educated is the best way to stay safe from scams. These five tips are not the only ways to keep yourself safe from vehicle title scams. Always double-check the information provided and when in doubt, contact the DMV for verification. If the situation feels wrong, it just might be.

Have Title Questions? Talk to a Car Title Expert.

Book a consultation with a Car Title Expert from to get personalized guidance on your title recovery journey.

Don’t let uncertainty hold you back. If it’s your car, you deserve a title.

Share this article!

Check Your VIN Instantly:

Powered by