LIVONIA, Mich., May 24, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Spring has sprung, and with it traditionally springs up a slew of opportunities to sell or purchase a pre-owned vehicle. Increasingly, online communities like Craigslist.com are the first stop for many used car buyers looking for a great deal. That is why during this time of year, H.E.A.T. (Help Eliminate Auto Thefts) is working to remind Michiganders that oftentimes when a vehicle deal seems too good to be true, it usually is.
"Online used car shopping, particularly on unsupervised sites like Craigslist, is a prime breeding ground for criminal activity, especially the selling of stolen vehicles," said Terri Miller, director of H.E.A.T. Miller has learned from H.E.A.T.'s partners in law enforcement that victims of auto theft have later even found their own vehicles for sale online.
"Despite the increase in fraudulent activities, there remain plenty of honest drivers looking to buy or sell a pre-owned vehicle online," continued Miller. "H.E.A.T. wants to remind Michigan consumers to take extra precaution and due diligence to ensure that you're dealing with one of the good guys."
In addition to reviewing Craigslist's own recommendations in the site's "Avoid Scams and Fraud" and "Personal Safety Tips" sections, H.E.A.T. offers the following advice when negotiating a used vehicle sale or purchase online:
- Meet at the S.O.S. – As either the buyer or seller, insist that you meet your other party to conduct the deal at a Secretary of State office during normal business hours. It is a safe, neutral location and allows for the completion of the deal (title transfer) to be conducted at the point-of-sale. Any reputable seller or buyer should take no issue with this request. If the other party in your deal has an excuse as to why he/she can't oblige this request, that should set off a red flag immediately and you may want to cut your losses before it's too late.
- Triple-check the VIN – As a buyer, before handing over any money, be certain to closely inspect the Vehicle Identification Number on the seller's paperwork and in two locations on the vehicle – both the dashboard and the inside panel of the driver's door. If the three VIN numbers are not identical, it's likely you are about to purchase a stolen vehicle that has been re-tagged. Report the seller immediately to local police and the H.E.A.T. confidential tip line.
- Get Guaranteed Payment – As a seller, insist that the buyer provide a bank-issued certified check when purchasing your vehicle. Fake cashier's checks and money orders are common, and there is no guarantee that a personal check actually comes with the necessary funds to back it up. Again, any well-intentioned buyer should have no issue with this request. If he or she does, take it as a warning and walk away from the deal before you're left with no vehicle and no pay off.
For more advice and information on protecting yourself year-round from auto theft-related crimes, visit www.1800242HEAT.com. Also, if you have any information on auto theft-related activities, report it to H.E.A.T.'s 24/7 toll-free tip line at 1.800.242.HEAT or to the H.E.A.T. website. You may be eligible for rewards up to $10,000 for your information.
H.E.A.T. works with Michigan law enforcement agencies to follow-up on tips. Tipsters are awarded up to $1,000 if the tip leads to the arrest and prosecution of a suspected car thief or a person suspected of auto theft-related insurance fraud. Rewards of up to $10,000 are issued if a tip results in the arrest and binding over for trial of a suspected theft ring or chop shop operators. H.E.A.T. rewards up to $2,000 for information leading to the issuance of a warrant for a carjacking suspect. The H.E.A.T. tip line is monitored by the Michigan State Police and funded by Michigan's auto insurance companies.