COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Marion woman has lost her truck and her trust, after she says someone traded her a stolen car and ran off. She says the truck was repossessed, and was surprised to find it was all legal, and experts say it happens more often than you might think.
"I’m at wit’s end," Amy Gibbs said as we talked with her about what happened.
"I got caught." Gibbs says she connected with someone online while looking for a truck to buy, and set up a trade; her old 86 Monte Carlo SS for a '03 Chevy Avalanche.
"He had notified me, 'okay, it’s going to take a bit to get the title to the avalanche,'" Gibbs said. "He was working on it, and I figured, 'alright."
Months later, and new money into tires and rims, the title was still missing and a repossession crew picked up the truck from Gibbs' home.
"From what I understand... he stole it," Gibbs said.
National Insurance Crime Bureau Supervisory Field Agent Eric Seebach says this happens more than you think.
"In that kind of market, what they're doing is what we call cloning a vehicle," Seebach explained. Popular cars are most common. Seebach used Honda Civics and Accords as examples; the thieves will steal then, change the car's identity by altering the VIN and place an ad online for sale under market value. Unsuspecting buyers will think they're getting a great deal when in reality, they just shelled out cash for a car that was never really for sale.
"If the system works the way its working and it should, that will eventually turn up and somebody from law enforcement and NICB will show up at your door and say, 'we need to take a look at your car,'" Seebach explained.
According to the Ohio State Bar Association, generally, the creditor doesn't have to tell you they're going to repossess your car. However, they will usually send a letter within five days detailing why and what you have to do to get it back. However, if the car was never really yours, to begin with, that might not happen.
Law enforcement officers say to keep an eye out for these red flags when buying a used car, to prevent you from buying a stolen one: