The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) offers consumers with six signs to look for to avoid curbsiders and other issues related to used vehicle sales, on unregulated online marketplaces. OMVIC is launching an aggressive province-wide public awareness campaign to alert consumers. Provincial legislation in Ontario offers protection for vehicle sales between consumers and Ontario-registered dealers, but it does not apply to private sales. Ontario-registered dealers are listed at www.buywithconfidence.ca or can be identified by the “Ontario-Registered Dealer” blue and yellow door decal. It can be difficult to distinguish legitimate private sellers from curbsiders in free online classified sites. “Curbsiders and fraudsters love sites like Kijiji and Craigslist, because they can pose as private sellers and run their operations under the radar. Ontario consumers need to be vigilant, because consumer protection does not apply to private sales,” says Carey Smith, director of investigations for OMVIC. “The vehicles on these free classified sites do not often come certified or with service or vehicle history reports,” says Smith. “We just completed an investigation of 115 ads on Kijiji and Craigslist and half of the vehicles were uncertified and had no service records, among other issues. “Red flags should go up if someone tells you they’re selling a vehicle on behalf of a spouse’s friend – or if the seller has moved out of province, but the vehicle is in Ontario. If it sounds fishy, it likely is.” Out of the reviewed 115 vehicle ads on Kijiji and Craigslist, 19 sellers claimed they were offering the vehicles on behalf of others. If a consumer purchases a vehicle from someone other than the vehicle owner, the owner can reclaim that vehicle. Curbsiders rip off consumers by misrepresenting vehicles. Fraudsters don’t always have a vehicle for sale, but are after your money. “Do not continue negotiating if a seller asks for a deposit, requests you to send money or asks for banking or credit card information,” adds Smith. “While OMVIC does not investigate fraud cases involving private sales or sales outside Ontario, these issues are very real possibilities and consumers should protect themselves.” “The only way to minimize the chance of becoming a victim of fraud when buying a used vehicle is to purchase it from an Ontario-registered dealer,” says the former police detective who now heads a team of OMVIC forensic investigators. Ontario-registered dealers pay into the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund to cover certain issues that cannot be resolved. Consumers who have been wronged may be eligible for up to a maximum $45,000 from the Compensation Fund for vehicles purchased from Ontario-registered dealers. By law, Ontario-registered dealers must disclose to buyers a vehicle’s full history, including any major repair work and accidents. They must also provide all-in pricing in advertising among a list of requirements that can be found on www.omvic.on.ca and www.buywithconfidence.ca. John Wallischek, general manager of Auto Showplace, a large Ontario dealership, calls OMVIC’s blue and yellow door decal “the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for used vehicle sales. Ontario-registered dealers want a professional industry. We don’t want to be associated with curbsiders and fraudsters. We must abide by conditions and we all pay into the Compensation Fund to cover consumer issues that cannot be resolved. It’s good for us and great for consumers.” Smith offers these six suggestions to avoid curbsiders and fraudsters on unregulated sites such as Craigslist and Kijiji: 1. Look out for unusual or “fishy” stories. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 2. Ask if the vehicle is certified and e-tested, and request to see all the documentation. 3. Ask for a landline or work number to validate the seller is who he or she claims to be. 4. Ask to see the vehicle’s ownership registration. If the seller’s name does not appear on the registration, do not buy the vehicle. 5. View the vehicle before you make any type of payment. 6. Meet sellers at their residence or place of work, not at malls or out-of-the-way parking lots. You want to know the seller is the person he or she claims to be.
Says Smith, “Your antennae should go up if the vehicle is priced to move at lower than market value. A curbsider looks for a quick hit. And, watch out for exotic cars. Curbsiders like to re-build and tamper with these types of cars, so they’re not likely to be as valuable as you think.” He also explains that “snoozers” can pose problems, too, by making such claims as a vehicle has never been driven much in the winter. These are all claims that make vehicles attractive, but there is no way to prove these claims are true or false. In 2008, the Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario conducted a study of 12,410 vehicles advertised for sale through online ads. Of the postings, 2,066 were placed by curbsiders. “The rip off here,” concludes Smith, “is that one of every four car ads was booked by a curbsider.”