Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Theft by Deception

Since January 2010 the Overland Park Police Department has received information on at least seven incidents where fraudulently obtained vehicles have been re-sold on Craigslist. These vehicles are listed on Craigslist or AutoTrader.Com by legitimate sellers who are contacted by either a well dressed man or woman. These “buyers” have the same story indicating they were involved in a recent accident and have an insurance check to purchase another vehicle. The suspects offer the “insurance check” to the seller for their vehicle. It should be noted the “insurance check” is usually for the exact asking amount of the seller’s vehicle and will be premade out to the seller. The “insurance check” is a forgery but by the time the seller is made aware a crime has occurred their vehicle has been re-sold for cash at an artificially low price.

This type of crime creates two victims for each incident, the person who is scammed out of their car with a bogus check, and the person who then buys the stolen car on Craigslist for cash.

We want to make the public aware of this tactic and provide the following ways to protect yourself if you are selling or purchasing a vehicle.

1. If you are selling a vehicle, be very wary of any payments other than cash. If you do agree to accept a check or money order, meet the buyer at a financial institution during business hours where you can verify the payment is good.
2. You can also directly contact the financial institution listed on the check to verify the funds are available prior to accepting the check.
3. Be suspicious of checks issued by insurance companies in your name as the seller. Insurance companies normally issue payments to their insured and not to an individual third party.
4. If you are buying a vehicle, be very suspicious of any vehicle listed substantially below market value.
5. Always meet the seller or buyer in a safe place and take a trusted friend along.
6. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true it probably is.