Fake vehicle title scam

This guy in Michigan filed for fake titles to clear valid liens, now going to jail for 10 years.

“Solomon Israel, 60, devised and ran a business that fraudulently re-titled vehicles. His scheme involved obtaining Michigan titles that appeared to give him free and clear ownership to vehicles but actually had third party, finance company security interests. Israel then used the fake titles to get new ones from other states, fraudulently cancelling the third-party interests. He then resold many of the vehicles with the fake titles, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to the financing companies.”

“Lost title” is often a salvage

Many of the inquires we receive to recover a lost title are a scenario when a buyer purchased a vehicle and was never provided the title from the seller. The seller often claims to have misplaced it, and will provide it later. Very frequently, the seller actually does have the title certificate, but prefers not to display it to the buyer at the time of sale because it contains the salvage brand which would kill the deal.

In this example story from Memphis, a couple purchases a sedan for $5500 cash without a title document only to discover it to be salvage branded vehicle. Dishonest sellers buy up cars at insurance salvage auctions for pennies on the dollar and sell them on Craigslist and Facebook with “no title” claiming to have lost the paperwork. Some even use official dealer names. When the buyer calls the seller to get the title the calls are unanswered or phone shut off.

A bill of sale is not a title

Motor vehicle ownership is evidenced by a title certificate. This is a document created by titlenh.jpegthe government agency such as a DMV or secretary of state proving the ownership name and VIN# for the asset. It is an official legal document of ownership.



A bill of sale is only a receipt of money and statement of an event. It does not guarantee ownership and is insufficient for a transfer of title by the DMV. It may be a necessary billofsalerecord in order to apply for a title, but by itself a bill of sale for a vehicle only is only an agreement created between two private parties to exchange money for a vehicle on a specific date.



The only way to ensure a valid ownership for a vehicle purchase is to receive a properly signed and verified legal title document.

Why is the DMV so hard to deal with?

Many times title assistance is requested because the client has tried to work with their local Motor Vehicle Department and it has become complicated. It is not just you, most people have difficulty with DMV processes. The people at the DMV are good people, but are working with a system that is not the most ideal. The budgets that the agencies have to deal with are dwindling every year like most municipal balance sheets. Tax revenues are shrinking, and costs are going up, so government agencies have to do the best that they can with what they need to work with.

dmv1The result is challenging experiences for consumers using these agencies. Sometimes the agency is using technologies and systems beyond their intended lifespan. Sometimes it is because of high turnover and lack of training for representatives. Sometimes it is when the volume of transactions grows beyond the workforce and even the size of the building.

In a recent study of the California DMV, auditors found several challenges to great customer service.

• Assembler, the primary programming language used in DMV field office computer applications, was created around the 1950s and is less commonly used today. With a significant portion of the agency’s IT workers approaching retirement age, DMV faces a potential shortfall of workers with skills to program its computers.

• DMV’s classification system for its offices, which considers the size of the offices and the volume of transactions to allocate resources, was last approved in 1990.

The next available appointment in the three sampled offices was nearly three months away.

DMV employees mean well and try hard with the resources they have to work with. The growth of volume and budget constraints make it difficult to keep up with the demands for vehicle transactions.


Fake VIN search websites

Scammers are running fake vehicle history report websites to take payments from people who are selling their vehicles. The fake websites are often on domain names ending with .VIN vs .COM, and are only for the purpose of taking money from unwitting vehicle sellers.

The Federal Trade Commission has discovered multiple such websites, according to their published bulletin. According to the agency:

“Your best bet: play it safe. Go to ftc.gov/usedcars for information on vehicle history reports, recall notices, and how to learn whether a car has been declared salvage. For example, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) operates vehiclehistory.gov, which lists NMVTIS-approved providers of vehicle history reports. Not all vehicle history reports are available through the NMVTIS website. Reports from other providers sometimes have additional information, like accident and repair history.

Vehicle sale and title scam

A ring of scammers is running ads around the country for vehicles with impossibly low prices to attract buyers, only to hit them up for a 20% “title clearing fee”. A police department in South Dakota is warning residents in the jurisdiction to avoid such scams.

As always, Consumers Title Resources advises consumers to never purchase a vehicle unless the seller has a valid verifiable title that they hand over to you at the time of purchase, and will provide an ID to match the name on the title.


Vehicle export title problems

The US Customs and Border Patrol screen export vehicles for fraudulent activity. Prior to exporting a vehicle be sure to have all legal documentation correctly prepared. Vehicles are checked for being stolen, first payment default, or other restrictions.

Legitimate exporters are knowledgeable on the proper procedure for preparing vehicle titles for exporting a vehicle. enforcement team at the ports have 700 to 1,200 vehicle titles reviewed each day to ensure compliance with U.S. export laws and regulations. The agency’s automated targeting system uses anomaly detection to sort through vast amounts of cargo information to flag suspicious shipments.

“At the port, criminals may take a chance and simply smuggle the vehicles by misrepresenting the containers’ contents on the export declaration. Otherwise, they generate fake documents to convince Customs that the vehicles have been paid off and are eligible for export.

Scammers often scan a paper title on which the lender has marked that a lien was satisfied and use software to alter the bank, owner, VIN, address and other information before submitting it to a state division of motor vehicles to have the lien removed from the records.”