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Chicago police give tips to avoid fraud ring

June 29, 2018
A fraud ring using stolen identities to acquire new vehicles apparently is based in Chicago, but its antics don’t stop at the city’s edge. Indeed, victimized dealerships are located seemingly coast to coast.
"We are seeing an epidemic of vehicles being purchased via identity theft and shipped to the Chicago area from around the country," said Sgt. Keith Blair, commanding officer of the Chicago Major Auto Theft Investigative Unit. The vehicles usually are valued at $50,000 or more. 
The transactions usually start via an internet search. Credit applications and other paperwork are either completed online or sent to the dealership via FedEx. The offenders create a phony email account in the victim’s name as well as a fake driver’s license with the victim’s information, and they use Google Voice or other applications whose phone numbers are not traceable. The offenders oftentimes seek to arrange their own transportation for the vehicles to be delivered to an address in Chicago that is a vacant building.
Blair called it an elaborate scheme that can be stopped if dealerships conduct a thorough examination of online loan applications and related paperwork and institute a waiting period before shipping any vehicle. Such practice helps protect both the dealership and innocent persons whose identities have been stolen.
"In every incident that we have investigated," Blair said, "there are several red flags that the dealership should have caught prior to shipping the vehicle. The Chicago Police Department is fielding at least three requests a week to investigate and recover vehicles that were purchased via identity theft and shipped to Chicago from out of state. In most cases, the credit application was initially approved and the vehicle was shipped. 
"Upon further review of the credit application, inconsistencies were identified and the credit was declined. We have recovered vehicles shipped to the Chicago area from several states, including Utah, Florida, Texas, Delaware and Pennsylvania."
For in-store purchases, Blair said most driver’s licenses used are an old version of the document. Dealerships with a UV (blue) light can check for watermarks and other security features that are on current driver’s licenses, as well as credit cards and vehicle titles.
"Other things we have noticed is that fraudulent buyers often come in the evening hours closer to closing times, and they are using identities of victims who don’t live reasonably close to the dealership. They also can come in pairs, where one individual may be coaching another with answers and information. 
"It is not a bad idea to have dealers take a picture of a new-vehicle owner with their purchase; it can be played off as a marketing tool."
For online purchases, Blair said dealerships should verify the address that any paperwork is being sent to. "Search Google Earth to look at the property to see if it looks vacant or dilapidated. Many times, fraudulent purchasers will ask a dealer to send paperwork to a "work" address, an address that is usually a vacant building."
If the paperwork isn’t sent to a residential address, review the paperwork carefully before shipping a vehicle. Blair said: "Do a Google search of the buyer to see if you can locate any information that can help you prove/disprove they are truly the buyer, such as social media profiles, LinkedIn, news articles, and business information. 
"Reverse phone number search any numbers provided and verify work phone numbers. Many fraudulent buyers use Google Voice or other phone-over internet apps when conducting transactions. When shipping a vehicle, verify the delivery address is reasonably close to the buyer’s address. 
"Make sure that the delivery driver verifies the identity of the person picking up the vehicle by photographing the driver’s license of the buyer. Do not," Blair emphasized, "let a ‘relative’ pick up the vehicle due to an ‘emergency.’ The only person to sign for the vehicle is the buyer. 
"If the delivery location is changed for any reason, delay the delivery and verify with the bank that the loan is not fraudulent. Most times, a fraudulent buyer will contact the transporter and change the delivery location just prior to a scheduled delivery date/time." 
 
Note: The Federal Trade Commission’s Red Flags Rule requires dealers who offer or maintain consumer credit (including retail installment sale contracts and vehicle leases) and dealers who offer business credit where a reasonably foreseeable risk of identity theft exists to maintain a written Identity Theft Prevention Program that (i) identifies relevant red flags that indicate the possible existence of identity theft, (ii) contains reasonable procedures to detect and respond to those red flags, and (iii) is updated periodically to reflect new identity theft risks.  Information on the full scope of duties is available in the National Automobile Dealers Association’s A Dealer Guide to the FTC Red Flags and Address Discrepancy Rules: Protecting Against Identity Theft. (Password protected.)
 
 

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