You have heard of flipping houses, right? And you have seen some done right and some done wrong on many national cable television programs. Sometimes, the disasters are shown as do-it-yourself nightmares.
Well, what about flipping cars? Not so much. And, the do-it-yourself nightmare would more than likely reside with the recipient of an ill-repaired vehicle, resulting in property damage or even worse, putting your life at-risk.
Curbstoning is the illegal, unlicensed “flipping” of used cars for profit. Technically, a used car can be flipped legally, however, it must be done by a licensed dealer. Curbstoners are not licensed dealers and are more than likely to flip an unsafe or fradulently displayed vehicle to an unsuspecting consumer.
Curbstoners actively and regularly buy and sell vehicles without a license, proper permits or a legally established place of business. Often they then represent themselves as private sellers in order to attract buyers. In the alternative, they will turn to high traffic areas to market their goods. This can be a virtual high traffic area – like craigslist.org or eBay.com – or real life, high traffic areas like shopping parking lots. There, they will line-up the vehicles and turn a gas station, supermarket, convenience store, or even the side of the road into their temporary, illegal, and unlicensed used car dealership. This can create a nuisance for the business community or unwanted traffic and consumer base to a residential or industrial area.
Consumers of Curbstoners can easily become victims. This is because most either are not aware of the illegality of the curbstoning or that the curbstoner is even engaging in the practice, as many hold themselves out to be for sale by owner. Thus, fraud such as Odometer Tampering, Undisclosed Frame Damage or Salvage Rebuilt Vehicles, Faulty Safety Devices, Mechanics or Promissory Liens and other problems is often not truthfully disclosed at the time of sale. And after the sale, the curbstoner usually packs-up and leaves town, having used an alias to commence the transaction.
This alias then results in the curbstoners most common crime – Tax Fraud. When an unsuspecting customer buys a car, the curbstoner will leave the title blank or “open.” Without the curbstoner’s name on the document, they are able to pocket the money (usually cash) and avoid paying State Sales Tax and Federal Income Tax.
As a result, consumers must be suspicious of cars and vehicles suddenly parked in undesignated areas. In addition, they must monitor free advertising sites, like Craigslist, for cases in which the same contact phone number appears on various private-party listings. In addition, make sure to compare contact information on ‘For Sale’ signs to see if it is the same as that on the advertisement as well as the Certificate of Ownership (title). You should steer away from sellers who accept only cash and refuse checks or money orders. And you should be suspicious of anyone who will not let you have the vehicle’s CarFax report, maintenance records or independently inspected.