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When you're in the market for a new ride, it's important to watch out for illegal vehicle sellers known as curbsiders and scams that could leave you out of pocket. Car sellers often request various forms of identification to ensure a smooth and secure transaction. But why is this necessary? And how can scammers exploit this process to their advantage?

Curbsider vs. private seller vs. registered dealer

A curbsider is someone who sells cars without a license, often pretending to be a private seller. The vehicles sold by curbsiders are often previous write-offs with undisclosed accident repairs. Others are stolen vehicles or have been repaired with stolen parts. Many of the vehicles sold by curbsiders also have an odometer that has been tampered with. A private seller is an individual who sells their own vehicle, usually to buy a new one. A registered dealer is a business with a license to sell cars, providing more security and consumer protections compared to curbsiders and private sellers. To legally sell vehicles in Ontario, all dealers and salespeople must be registered with OMVIC.

Why sellers ask for identification

Registered dealers ask for different forms of identification to verify the buyer's identity and ensure they're dealing with a legitimate customer. This helps prevent fraudulent transactions, protects both parties, and complies with legal requirements. Common forms of identification requested may include a driver's licence, passport, or government-issued ID.

To confirm you’re dealing with a registered seller, car buyers can ask to see the seller’s OMVIC licence, identification and also search for registered dealers on OMVIC’s website ahead of time. This will help protect your purchase and ensure you are protected by the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA). Remember, you’re only protected by the legislation when purchasing from an OMVIC- registered dealer.

Fake online ads

Scammers often create fake online listings for vehicles they don't actually own. They may use stolen photos and descriptions to lure unsuspecting buyers into making payments for a car that doesn't exist. Always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true and verify the legitimacy of the seller before proceeding. Remember, never send money in response to an online listing without seeing and driving the vehicle in person first. Be sure to see the vehicle in person before considering any financial transactions.

Requests for wire transfers or upfront payments

Registered dealers and salespeople won't ask for wire transfers or upfront payments before they enter into a vehicle sales agreement with a buyer. Curbsiders may pressure buyers into making hasty decisions or sending money without proper documentation. It's crucial to conduct transactions in person, buy from registered dealers and through secure channels to avoid being swindled.

Additional tips to avoid curbsiders and scams

To avoid falling prey to a curbsider or a scam while purchasing a vehicle, we recommend the following tips to ensure a safe and secure transaction:

Always buy from a registered dealer: Registered dealers must follow legal and ethical practices.

Use common sense and good judgment with prospective sellers: If something feels off, trust your instincts.

Be cautious if the transaction makes you feel uneasy: Curbsiders and scammers often use high-pressure tactics to rush decisions.

Verify the owner of the vehicle: Ensure that the seller's identity matches the vehicle's registration documents.

When in doubt, walk away.

Avoid sending money before meeting the seller and verifying the car: Always pay through secure channels like bank drafts.

Check all paperwork and obtain a vehicle history report: This helps verify that the vehicle's history matches what the seller advertises. Be sure to get a CARFAX and UVIP (used vehicle information package).

Be cautious with distant sellers: Do not rely on online photos alone; inspect the vehicle in person.

Buying a car can be an exciting but potentially risky endeavor if proper precautions aren't taken. By understanding why sellers ask for identification, recognizing common scams, and being vigilant against dishonest practices, car buyers can protect themselves from falling victim to fraudsters. Remember to always verify the legitimacy of sellers, thoroughly inspect vehicles, and conduct transactions through secure channels to ensure a safe and satisfactory purchase experience.

If you suspect you purchased a motor vehicle from an illegal dealer (curbsider) or have information about unregistered vehicle sales, you can file a complaint with OMVIC. When filing a complaint through our anti-curbsider hotline. Preventing fraudulent and illegal sales of vehicles requires the cooperation of all of us and may include attending provincial court. You can file a complaint by calling 1-888-NO-CURBS or emailing Nocurbs@omvic.on.ca.