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Unread 10-13-2004, 09:59 PM   #1
Semprini
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Am I walking into a scam?

Am I walking into a scam?

I've had my eye on a nice Rubicon that appeared in a classified ad several weeks ago, but after talking with the seller my bull-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= detector is going off and I'm trying to determine if i'm being scammed. Here are the facts so far: (some of the "facts" are fudged slightly so I don't tip my hand to the seller in the unlikely event that she frequents this forum...)

The vehicle is reasonably priced for its mileage/age/features, it's neither a great bargain nor an overpriced rig.
The seller has not been pushy in any way, or implied that there are other potential buyers in the pipeline, I don't feel like she's trying to rush the deal. Here's the major snag and what has raised a flag for me: the Jeep belongs to her son who's in the military, he's out of the country, and the title was lost during his last change of post. The son has applied for a new title which he will send along with a bill of sale. I've been dealing with this woman for a few weeks now as she tries to get the documents together and she seems to be trying to do the right thing, but I'm still a bit suspicious for a few reasons:

"Mom" says she has power of attorney over the title but I don't see why this matters if her son is going to sign it over to me (unless she's selling it against his wishes and knows he won't sign it over...)

I've heard several stories of scammers playing the patriotism card (son abroad in the military) to win sympathy/trust, but she doesn't seem to be making it major point of conversation.

I have not actually met the owner of the vehicle, and that encourages me to use caution.

The seller mentioned that she has a friend who works at a tag agency who might help to get the title, I'm inclined to think that such a person might be capable of producing a bogus title.

On the other hand, I have been to the seller's home, she handed me the keys and let me inspect and test drive the Jeep without hovering over me (the cynic in me says that this is exactly how I would act if I were selling a vehicle I didn't own or care about.) I have also been to her place of work to pick up some paperwork so I know where she lives and works and it's not like she's going to disappear into the ether like some Nigerian 419 scammer. We have been working for a few weeks to get the proper documentation so that the transaction will be legit, and I don't know if a scammer would go to these lengths (again, the cynic might suggest that if she thinks she's got a good sucker, she might be willing to go the distance.)

At any rate, the duplicate title should be here next week, and we'll be off to the races. Can anybody see an angle I might be missing, and are there any clear warning signs? If the title materializes and it looks legit, is there still a potential for scammage? Am I being too paranoid?

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Unread 10-13-2004, 10:43 PM   #2
Niles
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Semprini, you are right to be cautious, but my $.02 you are seeing things in the shadows. I don't see anything that would cause me to run in the other direction ( but I don't know FL DMV rules either), but you need to do some homework before you get out your checkbook. Does she have a valid registration and insurance card? Do the numbers match the vin on the Jeep? Did the "out-of-the-states" son actually apply for the title, or did she do it in his name? When the dup title does appear, is she going to send it to her son for signature, or is she going to sign it herself. Is she signing his name, or hers? Any chance you could go to a DMV office and see what the legal procedures actually are for a lost title, and what protections you have as an innocent purchaser? Its a long shot, but you might contact your Police Dept Auto Theft Unit and ask if they see anything funny there. If not, they will no doubt tell you, and if they do, they will check it out for you. Go with your own gut feelings if it feels wrong, it probably is. In the vehicle frauds I have worked on in a law enforcement capacity, most perps won't let you go to their house or office, unless they can scoot out in the middle of the night and not look back. If you buy a hot one, it gets seized and you get nothing. Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.
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Unread 10-13-2004, 11:14 PM   #3
balloo93
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Wouldn't a carfax report show the registered owner's name? That or the dealer if it was a dealer finance situation?
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Unread 10-13-2004, 11:34 PM   #4
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Have the DMV run the plate - they will tell you the owner, any parking tickets or fees owed - lein holder???
Do they own it outright or owe money on it.

I have bought cars and bikes with no pink- had the dmv run it. got the proper paper work and had no problems.

Start with the dmv and make sure they own it - they wouldn't have a pink if it was not paid for.
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Unread 10-13-2004, 11:35 PM   #5
Semprini
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Thanks for the advice. So far the bulk of the evidence implies that it's on the up-and-up, the registration looks correct and matches the VIN. Carfax shows a clean history and matches what the seller told me about the vehicle's history (of course she could have pulled that off of Carfax herself though I doubt a garden-variety scammer would bother.)

I'm pressuring her for the son's signature and I'm patient enough to wait for it, but I have no way of knowing if the signature is legit. Florida's duplicate title procedure does not allow for the use of a power of attorney if I understand it correctly ( here's the form in .pdf ,) so the son must be the applicant. The seller has told me that she paid the vehicle off for junior, and the big house she lives in suggests that she's got the dough. I assume that's the reason she has power of attorney but OTOH, I've just made two assumptions that are probably colored by my desire for this deal to go through (is my neurosis showing yet?)

I like your suggestion of running this by the PD, and I also have a car buyer's advocate at my bank (they'll be financing it) who I can speak with.

As I spend more time detailing the facts, it seems like I'm probably better off not exposing myself to a 20k risk.
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Unread 10-13-2004, 11:41 PM   #6
Semprini
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The DMV has a records request that will tell me the current owner and I can get a copy of the current title, but I need to get the owner's written consent first. If she refuses I'd walk away obviously. I suppose this is my next move. FWIW, a Carfax report will only give the date and location of any changes in ownership, it won't name names.
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Unread 11-27-2004, 04:48 PM   #7
Semprini
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Update!!

I though I'd follow up with this thread and let you know how it turned out. My suspicion was misplaced, the seller(s) were legit and the deal went through last month. I couldn't be happier with my '99 Sport (not a Rubi as I stated above...) it's been a blast and I'm actually getting accustomed to the constant hissing sound as my bank account deflates.

Some pics:



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Unread 11-27-2004, 05:07 PM   #8
CETROV
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Glad it turned out good.

Great looking Jeep
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Unread 11-27-2004, 05:09 PM   #9
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Glad it worked out for you, but if you thought it was a rubi, and it ended up being a sport, I woulda walked away.
Scott
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Unread 11-27-2004, 08:55 PM   #10
Niles
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Nice looking ride. Glad it worked out for you, and you did a follow-up. Wave when you go by.
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Unread 11-27-2004, 09:09 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Niles
Nice looking ride. Glad it worked out for you, and you did a follow-up. Wave when you go by.
love24wheel, I think the Rubicon thing was the deliberate mistake he made incase the owner of the sport browsed this forum

Nice Jeep!
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Unread 11-27-2004, 10:31 PM   #12
Semprini
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oman Jeep
love24wheel, I think the Rubicon thing was the deliberate mistake he made incase the owner of the sport browsed this forum

Nice Jeep!
Exactly. I know it was unlikely, but I didn't want to risk offending the seller.
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Unread 11-27-2004, 10:41 PM   #13
wherndon
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Glad it turned out okay.
Nice Jeep.

I thought I would comment that it is not uncommon for military personel to grant power of attorney(sp?) to others in time of combat. It is done so that a trusted person can manage their financial affairs while they are away.
One of my buds has been mobilized and is leaving for Iraq in Dec., he granted me power of attorney for his absence.
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