HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- If you're wanting to buy a used car, the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable's Office is warning against a fake title scam.
Constable Alan Rosen said several victims have been duped by thieves into purchasing stolen vehicles with fake vehicle identification numbers and titles. In 2020, Precinct 1 conducted over 125 investigations related to fake vehicle title scams.
"I can tell you that families work so hard for their money. A lot of families, and a lot of our Latino families, save up money to pay cash for their vehicles, only to be duped, and only to lose their entire amount of money that they bought this vehicle for," said Rosen.
He said the victims who are mainly targeted are Hispanic. Many thieves believe the victims won't report it if they're in the country illegally. Rosen said the constable's office will never ask victim's their immigration status if they are reporting a crime.
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Rosen said many scammers target people on sites like Craigslist, OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace.
"Everything will seem legitimate. All the paperwork looks real, but then imagine you're walking up and you're going to buy your vehicle and change the title to your name, only to find out that's a fake title," he said. "As law enforcement, we have to go get that vehicle. We seize that vehicle and you no longer have it. It's highly probable you're not going to get your money back."
One of the best ways to avoid being ripped off is to always verify the VIN number by going online to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website and checking before you buy.
You can also set up an appointment with the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable's Office at 1302 Preston St. for a deputy to research the car you want to purchase. They will hook up a special device to the vehicle that can determine if the VIN number has been changed. If the number on the vehicle's internal computer doesn't match what is on the dash, that can be a sign that the vehicle has been stolen.
Rosen said another way to protect yourself is to ask the person selling the vehicle to meet you at a police station. If they refuse, you're advised not to make the deal. He also suggests you ask the seller to go with you to the tax office for the transaction, especially if you're paying cash. If they won't go, don't make the deal.
The video above is from a previous story.
Don't fall for this fake car title scam, Harris Co. Precinct 1 constable warns