Title Fraud Basics
When we purchase a vehicle, whether new or used, we receive its title, which is a legal document issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles that lists the car’s make, and VIN, as well as the names of any past owners. Unfortunately, some used car dealers alter these documents to misrepresent the condition of a vehicle, a practice known as title fraud. Title fraud is illegal and can result in buyers purchasing unsafe vehicles, so if you were sold a used car whose title is inaccurate, you should consult with an experienced used car fraud attorney who can help you hold the responsible party accountable in court.
What Qualifies as Title Fraud?
In most cases, title fraud involves removing a salvage brand from a title document, as salvage cars can be purchased for much less than new vehicles. Cars receive salvage titles when they have been damaged to such an extent that getting the car repaired would cost more than the vehicle is actually worth. Damage could come from a collision, fire, theft, or even submersion. Unfortunately, some sellers purchase vehicles in other states, make basic or cosmetic repairs, and then attempt to sell them in Pennsylvania without a salvage title. This type of fraudulent activity puts thousands of people at risk of injury every year.
National Motor Vehicle Titling Information System
Each state has its own titling procedures and standards, so historically it has been fairly easy for used car dealers to pass off a salvaged car as a vehicle that is in good condition. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has taken steps to discourage this type of activity. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently implemented the National Motor Vehicle Titling Information System (NMVTIS), which is a database that contains vehicle titling information compiled by agencies across the nation. States that use this system can research a vehicle’s titling history in other states, so consumers can verify VINs, odometer information, and a description of the vehicle’s current or prior condition before purchasing it.
Used car dealers who are involved in title fraud face third degree felony charges and if convicted, could spend up to five years in prison. In addition to these criminal penalties, defendants also face civil penalties, as wronged parties are permitted to file claims against the at-fault party in court. Plaintiffs who are able to successfully prove that a defendant was involved in fraudulent practices could collect restitution to cover the cost of their vehicle, as well as reimbursement for other related costs, including attorney’s costs and court fees. In especially egregious cases, courts have even been willing to order defendants to pay as much as three times the amount of a plaintiff’s actual damages.
Call an Experienced Used Car Fraud Lawyer Today for Help with Your Case
To discuss your own fraud-related questions and concerns, please contact dedicated used car fraud attorney Louis S. Schwartz at CONSUMERLAWPA.com by calling 215-790-1800. Initial consultations are conducted free of charge, so please don’t hesitate to call or contact a member of our legal team online.