GEICO Consumer Fraud Alert: 5 Tips to Help Used Car Shoppers Guard Against VIN Fraud

April 9, 2017
Consumer Fraud Alert

Buying a quality used vehicle is stressful enough because of all the decisions involved in the process. You’re balancing pricing, safety, make and model, gas or electric hybrid, and financing. It’s an even more daunting task when unsuspected fraud is involved.

GEICO offers five key guidelines for consumers to consider before they buy that previously—owned vehicle.

Before that there’s the golden rule when buying a used car: make sure you know the VIN number is legitimate. It’s possible that the seller may be trying to hide the fact that the car has been stolen, in an accident or damaged by flood and sold for salvage.

GEICO reminds drivers there are some important things you need to understand about VIN numbers—vehicle identification numbers. Every car is built with its own unique VIN number stamped in metal somewhere on the frame, riveted to the dash or stickered on the door or jamb.

These distinctive numbers can be fraudulently changed—either on the vehicle or on paper documents. This is VIN fraud and consumers should keep these five things in mind to avoid becoming a victim of VIN fraud:

Select a reputable car dealer — Read dealer reviews, check with the Better Business Bureau, or get personal referrals from friends and family to help choose a seller you can trust.

Perform a VIN check—Visit the National Insurance Crime Bureau website to access the VIN check feature. This tool can help determine if a vehicle has been reported stolen or salvaged.

Get a detailed used car history report — Verify the car history, past ownership, accident history, liens, maintenance and flood damage. Before purchasing a car, be aware of its full history to help you make a more informed decision. Car history reports can also be obtained from the federal government’s National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) or online sources such as

Have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle prior to purchasing — Examine the VIN plate for signs it may have been tampered with.

Inspect all title and ownership documents—Conduct a title search to confirm ownership. The NMVTIS can be used to access title documents and other important vehicle information. Be sure the seller’s information matches that listed on the title. Confirm the VIN found on the car is consistent with all documents and records as well.

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