Odometer tampering has become a common crime recently, with close to 200,000 cars affected in the United States alone. Not only does odometer fraud cost consumers thousands of dollars, but serious safety issues may also occur with the vehicle.
And, it's hitting close to home. Just across the border, a Calgary man is being charged for scamming more than 50 buyers. The vehicles were originally purchased at auction houses. After some small repairs – and an odometer rollback – the vehicles were sold on sites such as Kijiji, Craigslist and AutoTrader. In one case, one of the vehicles had almost 208,000 kilometers rolled back. So far, the value of the fraud is estimated to be at $300,000.
Sadly, this is happening all over the US, and many used vehicles in BC are imported from the US. Make sure that you are getting the protections of buying from a licensed dealer and obtain a current vehicle history report. A licensed dealer in BC is required to provide you with the accurate mileage on a vehicle. Even if they unknowingly sell a vehicle with incorrect mileage, they are still responsible for that error.
Read about more cases on odometer fraud in the US below:
You may not be the only one. According to Consumer Reports, many manufacturers no longer include a spare tire in the trunk. Consumers may instead find a tire-inflator kit, which includes a small air compressor and a can of sealant, or a run-flat tire (tires that can be driven short distances after a puncture). Why are manufacturers choosing the replace the spares? To save on weight and, essentially, gas. Overall, this improves the car's fuel economy.
While removing a 45-pound spare tire may seem like a reasonable way to save on gas, Consumer Reports recommends that manufacturers and dealers be upfront about what is included in the vehicle. Consumer Reports also recommends that consumers take their own precautions to ensure they're getting a vehicle that is fully equipped, such as reading the window stickers carefully and asking direct questions at the dealership.
Source: Consumer Reports
With the recent rise in manufacturer recalls, the VSA is seeing an increase in recall-related questions. While dealers have an obligation to research and disclose the history and condition of a vehicle, consumers are encouraged to conduct their own research as well.
Consumer Best Practices
- · Research the recall history of vehicle models. Resources include the Government of Canada's general recall website for all categories of products, including vehicles. The USA Department of Transport's National Highway and Traffic Safety Authority also launched a VIN specific limited recall look up.
- · Check the recall history of a specific vehicle with the manufacturer using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A recall may affect only a certain number of vehicles of the same make, model and year.
- · Ask for proof from the dealer of the status of any recall issues from the seller.
Dealership Best Practices
- · Checking online and with the manufacturer using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
- · Knowing where a recall was made. A recall in the United States may not be a recall in Canada.
- · Knowing the full scope of a recall. For example, if the problem occurred in just part of the production run, the recall may apply to only certain vehicles of the same model or year.
- · Advising consumers of any outstanding or uncorrected recalls. However, recalls required for a vehicle to meet the minimum requirements of the Motor Vehicle Act must be completed before a vehicle is sold for use as transportation.
This fall, Walt returns to print and online publications reminding consumers to buy from licensed dealers for the full protections of the law. Keep an eye out for Walt's advice column in the Driveway section of many Black Press community newspapers. Walt also makes his television debut with three, 30 second video spots. Until early December, see if you can spot Walt the Curber in rotation on CHEK TV. To increase your chances, 15 second versions are also in rotation on the CHECK TV website before current news videos. Soon, they will also be on many Black Press community newspaper sites.
Last year, numerous car buyers saw their pockets emptied as they fell prey to online scams. Now, consumers are asked to beware of the same kind of scams when buying an RV. A scam website, operating as rv-wheels.com, was found to be run by scammers out of Nigeria. They were supposedly based in Missouri, and interested buyers from around the country traveled there to pick up their non-existent motorhomes. Unfortunately, since the scammers are overseas, there is not much authorities could do. Those who were victimized were not able to get their deposit money back.
While the website has shut down due to press, similar off-shore scams are still in action. Consumers are encouraged to purchase vehicles from licensed dealerships for maximum protection. Doing further research, such as checking if the business is registered in the state of origin or completing website domain searches, can provide a better piece of mind. From time to time, consumers can also check the list of known scam websites, which is continuously updated. And, to search for local licensed dealerships in BC, consumers can use this tool: Search for Dealers and Salespeople.
A Canadian insurance company – Economic Insurance (EI) - took matters into their own hands when they recovered two stolen, high-end SUVs. Instead of being resold to unsuspecting consumers, the two vehicles were deemed unsafe, stripped for parts and then taken to the crusher – ensuring that no consumer can ever get a hold of them.
The vehicles were first reported stolen in Ontario in 2009. They were then recovered a year later. It was found that the VINs were altered, and both vehicles had salvage parts put in from other vehicles. The company's VP calls them "Frankenstein" vehicles, saying "there's no way to know they're safe structurally, mechanically, and in the case of an accident." It is believed that the stolen vehicles were to be put up for sale to the public.
Your car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) may help you dodge a bad deal.
What is a VIN? Well, it's kind of like your car's fingerprint. Technically speaking, every car is identified by a unique combination of 17 digits – no two cars have the same VIN. Most often, the VIN is found on the dashboard near the windshield and inside the driver's side door. Cars that are more prone to theft may also have the VIN etched in other places.
So how can the VIN help you avoid getting scammed in a private sale? Often, a private seller may turn out to be a curber. They may misrepresent the history and/or condition of the car or try to sell you a stolen vehicle. But, using the car's VIN, you can find important information about its history. This includes any prior accidents, registration information, and unpaid liens. Ultimately, you can use the VIN to make sure the car is really what the seller claims it is.
Before you purchase, make sure to:
- Check all VIN locations to confirm the numbers are the same
- Check for any signs of VIN tampering (including scratched numbers, paint or glue over VIN area)
- Match the VIN number on the vehicle with the VIN number on the registration documents
- Use a VIN decoder (CarProof has a free one) to see if vehicle characteristics match up
Over an eight-month long investigation, the Edmonton Police Service has been tracking down a fraudulent registration scheme involving stolen high-end travel trailers and recreational equipment worth approximately $863,130 that was resold to unsuspecting consumers.
Taken from driveways and parking lots from across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, the stolen RVs were given false VINs and registered using counterfeit bills of sale. They were then sold to innocent buyers through online classified websites such as Kijiji. Once police were able to identify the stolen vehicles, they were returned to their rightful owners. However, that left the buyers of the RVs empty-handed and out of cash, "such as one individual from Kelowna who purchased a travel trailer for $35,000."
Two of the three men responsible for the scheme have now been charged. Detectives believe, however, that there are other stolen vehicles still available for sale.
This case further cautions consumers to be wary of buying privately. Someone who seems like a legitimate private seller may actually be a curber (an unlicensed dealer). And, instead of selling a vehicle honestly, curbers often misrepresent the history and condition of a vehicle. It is not uncommon for a curber to sell a stolen vehicle as well.
Buying from a licensed dealer and getting a vehicle history report is the best way to ensure maximum protection. BC car buyers are encouraged to check the list of known curbers and buy from licensed dealers. A registry of licensed dealers and salespeople in BC can be accessed here.
Read the full story on the investigation here.
In the last few months, General Motors (GM) has recalled millions of motor vehicles surrounding ignition switch issues and other concerns. The Government of Canada is currently undertaking a review of GM Canada's handling of these recalls. Unless there is evidence to suggest a particular B.C. motor dealer has somehow misrepresented these recalls to a particular consumer, the VSA will not be conducting its own investigation.
If it is suspected that a safety-related defect is affecting your vehicle, it can be reported to Transport Canada's Defect Investigations and Recalls Division. They will investigate consumer concerns about possible vehicle safety issues needing a recall notice.
In short, total price is the full amount a consumer has to pay to purchase the vehicle. So, the price shown in the ad must include:
· All dealer fees*
· Inspection fees
· Accessory costs
· Any other additional fees and transportation charges
It is important to mention, however, that the total listed price does not need to include PST, GST and other taxes (these will still be added to your final total at the end).
*While dealer fees are not mandatory, they aren't illegal either. Dealers may choose to charge a certain fee, and there is no set amount to what that fee is. Regardless of the amount, dealers are obligated to inform you of these extra fees upfront – there should be no surprises at the end! In an ad, the fees might be displayed separately from the vehicle price (for example: $15,395 + $250 doc. fees). If there are no additional fees displayed, then you are right to assume that they are included in the total price. Dealer fees may consist of any routine documentation, administration or registration fees. And remember, dealer fees are not required by law and should not be described as government or insurance fees.