Curbstoning refers to auto dealers who try to bypass the law by selling their vehicles on the street, by pretending to be private sellers. In this auto scam dishonest car dealers use curbstoning as a means of circumventing their state laws which govern the sale of cars.
Most states have limits in place with regards to how many vehicles a person may buy and sell in a particular time frame before being required to be a licensed car dealer.
The big disadvantage of being licensed, to these people, is that licensed car dealers have to meet certain requirements in order to stay in business.
Curbstoners, because they appear to be private sellers, do not have any such restrictions to work within.
Often, a curbstoning car dealer will utilise this scam in order to offload the type of vehicle they would struggle to sell through their dealership. Whatever part of the country you live, or wherever in the world for that fact, you have probably seen this scam in operation on a street corner near you. There will be several cars for sale in the same place, often parked along the curb, hence the name ‘curbstoners’. Typically, these cars will be ones with problems, that are hard for the dealers to sell through their official businesses. Additionally, cars bought at the roadside may have had their clocks rolled back (odometer fraud).
Popular internet sites, such as eBay, have proven to be popular with curbstoners. This is because they often afford the seller a great deal of anonymity, making it difficult for disgruntled purchasers, and government agencies alike, to track them down. Internet adverts for lemon autos allows the scammer to utilise a few different techniques in order to increase their chances of selling their vehicles. Poor resolution photographs are often used as they can hide a multitude of sins, from dents to rust, and many others besides. Another often used tactic in online sales is affinity fraud.
Avoiding Curbstoning Scams
Whilst there are laws in place that prohibit curbstoning, they are rarely enforced or prosecuted. Likewise, eBay cannot keep up with the problem either – if detected, a scammer will just close an account and start again with a new id. Therefore, vigilance is the key if you wish to avoid buying a car that -
- may have had it’s odometer rolled back
- could be stolen
- has previously been written off or damaged
- has someone else’s credit outstanding on it
- has been designated as being for export only
If you really must buy a car off the street, or via an online auction then take care. Verify the seller’s identity, get any guarantees or representations in writing and, if possible arrange a viewing (with a mechanic) in advance.