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DMV Targets Unlicensed Car Dealers Posing As Private Sellers


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April 14, 2014

DMV Targets Unlicensed Car Dealers Posing As Private Sellers
Statewide Undercover Sting Produces Dozens of Citations

SACRAMENTO -California Department of Motor Vehicles investigators fanned out across the state on Saturday, April 12, citing unlicensed car dealers who prey on disadvantaged buyers by disguising themselves as private sellers with the intent of flipping unsafe, used vehicles. Undercover officers issued 93 citations gave 68 warnings, impounded 109 vehicles and arrested four individuals on outstanding warrants during Saturday's operation.

Unlicensed car dealers, called "Curbstoners" typically purchase "low end" vehicles from private parties and salvage auction yards and usually do little, if any, mechanical or safety reconditioning. Curbstoners can face several thousand dollars in fines and fees for each confiscated vehicle.

Curbstoners typically create 'pop-up' lots by parking multiple vehicles in one location, clogging city streets, public parking lots and private property. They also lure potential buyers by advertising on websites like Craigslist; using different seller names, but the same phone number.

Damaged 2006 Mercedes Benz SUVDamaged 2006 Mercedes Benz SUVDamaged 2006 Mercedes Benz SUV after repairs


This 2006 Mercedes Benz SUV is an example of the kind of cars curbstoners are selling to unsuspecting buyers. It was involved in an out-of-state accident and was so badly damaged it is not safe to drive. When investigators inspected the cosmetically refurbished vehicle (After), they found the frame had been welded together, it contained no air bags and the rear door did not line up.


  • Curbstoning is the repeated, unlicensed "flipping" of used cars for profit.
  • Curbstoners are people who actively and regularly buy and sell vehicles without a license, proper permits or a legally established place of business and who, many times, represent themselves as private sellers in order to attract buyers.

Nuisance: Curbstoners often turn high traffic areas into instant parking lots, lining up cars at gas stations, supermarkets, convenience stores, on private property or even the side of the road. They deprive shoppers of places to park and the inconvenience and unsightliness drives away business.

Fraud: Consumers can easily become victims of fraud involving issues like Odometer Tampering, Undisclosed Frame Damage or Salvage Rebuilt Vehicles, Faulty Safety Devices, Mechanics or Promissory Liens and other problems that may not be truthfully disclosed at the time of sale. A consumer has no recourse!

Criminal: The most common crime committed by Curbstoners is Tax Fraud. When an unsuspecting customer buys a car, the curbstoner will leave the title blank or "open." Without the curbstoner's name on the document, they are able to pocket the money (usually cash) and avoid paying State Sales Tax, Federal Income Tax and any other declarations that are legally required.


  • Be suspicious of cars and vehicles suddenly parked in undesignated areas.
  • Monitor free advertising sites, like Craigslist, for cases in which the same contact phone number appears on various private-party listings.
  • Compare contact information on 'For Sale' signs to see if it is the same.
  • Verify the name on the Certificate of Ownership (title) matches the seller's name.
  • Steer away from sellers who accept only cash and refuse checks or money orders.
  • A curbstoner will not let you have the vehicle independently inspected or provide maintenance records that match the car.
  • A curbstoner will not allow you to conduct a CarFax report because it will detail if the vehicle was sold at auction.

DMV's Investigations Division enhances consumer protection including auto and identity related fraud, car dealers, driving schools, traffic violator schools, and other DMV occupational licensees, as well as Internal Affairs Investigations.

Save Time, Go Online! Doing business with the DMV has never been easier. The DMV offers an array of services to customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through its Website including online advance appointments for written and drive tests; vehicle registration and driver license renewals, selection of personalized license plates, changes of address and payment of fees via secure debit transactions. Customers can also effect transactions by calling DMV customer service at (800) 777-0133.DMV is a department under the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA).


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