In 2020, Harris County Sheriff’s Office investigators recovered 56 stolen vehicles that involved an innocent buyer. This year, from January to November, investigators recovered 23 stolen vehicles involving people who unknowingly purchased them.
“Scammers are becoming more sophisticated and using fake IDs, burner phones, and deleting their website presence once a sale is made,” said Sgt. Eduardo Rivera, Harris County Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Division. “Unfortunately, many victims won’t find out the title is fake, and the vehicle is stolen until they try to change the title to their name.”
“We want to encourage the Hispanic community to see us as a resource,” said Deputy Luz Blanco, who oversees Unidos, a Sheriff’s Office program that supports Spanish-speaking residents. “We know families work hard for their money. Many make sacrifices and spend time saving their money to pay cash for their vehicle. They shouldn’t be victimized purchasing their means of transportation.”
Deputy Blanco and Sgt. Rivera want to ensure residents do everything they can to protect themselves when buying a used vehicle.
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Steps to Protect Yourself
- Verify the vehicle’s VIN on the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles’ website before the purchase.
- Check the vehicle’s history using the VIN.
- Check for an altered VIN and look for missing manufacturer labels on the door.
- If you’re a Harris County resident, you can call your nearest substation to have one of our deputies help determine if the VIN has been changed.
- Ask the person selling the vehicle to meet you at your nearest substation for the purchase.
- Be vigilant. Suspects are known to use fake IDs, burner phones, and delete their website presence once a sale is made.
- Do your homework on the fair market value of the vehicle and trust your instincts. Be suspicious of too good to be true deals.