Throughout 2022, the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force conducted an extensive investigation involving vehicles that had been stolen from dealerships in Washington and Oregon and sold to unsuspecting buyers through a sophisticated scam.
The stolen vehicles were primarily 2017-2018 Dodge Ram 2500 & 3500 pickup trucks. On each vehicle, the suspects would remove the visible VIN (vehicle identification number) plate and replace it with a fraudulent VIN plate. The suspects would also create fraudulent Texas titles and supporting documents that matched the fraudulent VIN’s. The fraudulent VIN’s used on these vehicles were actual VIN’s for legitimate out-of-state vehicles. Once they created the documentation, the suspects sold the vehicles to unsuspecting buyers on Craigslist.
Taking the scam a step further, the suspects also created fake Texas drivers’ licenses matching the names on the vehicle documents.
Some buyers photographed the seller’s/suspect’s driver’s license, which contained the true photograph of the seller/suspect. This greatly assisted us in our investigation.
Suspects were arrested and charged for these crimes in Wahington and Oregon. We identified and recovered approximately 15 stolen vehicles.
The average sale price was $50,000, which buyers paid in cash. It is estimated the suspects made more than $750,000 in the scam.
If you are considering purchasing a used vehicle from a private party, please take these precautionary measures:
• Run the VIN on CARFAX. Verify the mileage shown on the CARFAX report matches the mileage on the vehicle you are purchasing.
• Do a quick online search of the VIN. In this case, many of the fraudulent VIN’s matched vehicles that were listed for sale out of state. If you find a matching vehicle for sale, call the dealership and ask if they still have the vehicle.
• As always, If the deal seems too good to be true, it more than likely is.