DMV News Releases
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEWednesday, June 29, 2011
Craigslist Ads Lead to Arrest in Suspected Car Sale Scam
DMV Offers Car Buyers Suggestions for Non-dealer Purchases
RICHMOND - Department of Motor Vehicle special agents and Chesapeake Police Department officers yesterday arrested a Newport News man on charges of grand larceny by false pretense and selling a motor vehicle without a salesperson's license. Francis Masika, whose license to sell automobiles was revoked by the Virginia Motor Vehicle Dealer Board in September 2010, allegedly used the popular website craigslist to facilitate fraud.
After receiving a tip regarding the craigslist advertisements, DMV special agents obtained warrants for Masika's arrest. The suspect is accused of falsely representing himself as an automobile dealer on craigslist by advertising 36 vehicles for sale, priced well below book value, that he was not authorized to sell. Once potential customers made contact with the suspect, it is believed he offered to deliver the vehicle upon receipt of a down payment; however, vehicles were not delivered as promised.
DMV agents are currently investigating additional, similar complaints against Masika. "In Virginia, nearly one out of every three car sales is between two individuals, rather than between a buyer and a licensed vehicle dealer," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. "So be sure to remember that if a vehicle's price sounds too good to be true - it probably is."
DMV has some suggestions for those who are buying a car from anyone other than a licensed dealer. "For example, websites that require the seller to pay a fee to post their vehicle advertisement are recommended rather than free websites that are more likely to attract unlicensed dealers," Holcomb said.
Also, websites such as craigslist and eBay are meant to connect local buyers and sellers; craigslist advises that offers to ship vehicles are fraudulent. To check a seller's reputation, look for other customer reviews on the website about the vehicle's seller. Buyers should never give the seller their street address, and test drives should be arranged in a public place during daylight.
Used car buyers should:
- Ask the seller to provide the title for the vehicle; not providing the title could indicate the vehicle has liens against it.
- Make sure the title is in the name of the individual who is selling the car. Ask to see the seller's driver's license for verification.
- Ask to see the vehicle registration card or paper from DMV and check to see that the vehicle description and plate number match the car you plan to purchase.
- Create a written contract including sale price, car condition and method of payment, after a price for the vehicle is agreed upon.
- Get the contract notarized while both parties sign it.
- Never pay for a vehicle or vehicle down-payment with cash.
- Verify that the person who signs the contract is the actual owner of the car by comparing the owner's name on the title to the seller's identification.