Today, we conclude our look at so-called Curbers: con artists dedicated to separating you from your hard-earned cash by selling you a vehicle that is not all it seems to be…
Bringing a curber conman to justice can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
While penalties can be high, many successful prosecutions may yield a fine of just a few hundred dollars. One case currently before the courts is five days into a trial over a $288 ticket. The costs to date of further action against the offender are now approaching $80,000.
At first sight, one might think it appropriate to save public cash but the problem is allowing a dismissal to occur sets a dangerous precedent that could harm future prosecutions.
Because the matter is still before the court, the accused’s name is withheld but the circumstances can be revealed because they are instructive. The Surrey man has undergone continuous legal action by the VSA (in partnership with the City of Surrey). The Provincial Court found him guilty on three charges of curbing. He continued to curb so the VSA obtained an injunction from the BC Supreme Court. That did not deter him so the VSA applied to the BC Supreme Court to find him in contempt of court. If successful the man will face a fine of $10,000 if found curbing again.
This form of con clearly can be very profitable, if the perpetrators figure fines and legal expenditures are merely the cost of doing business. However, the following cases illustrates typical curber practices and the penalties they could face.
One prolific curber was convicted with 31 counts of fraud. He was buying vehicles wholesale from licensed dealers and selling them to the public. He rolled back more than two million kilometres. He was fined $31,000, two vehicles were seized from him, and he was put on probation for three years.
A curber from Williams Lake claimed he sold cars as a hobby. After several tickets and warnings from the VSA, Crown Counsel issued court charges against him. After pleading guilty, he was fined $2,000. The legislation allows for a maximum fine of up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations.
A Delta man was convicted of fraud – 15 charges with evidence of odometer tampering, inaccurate vehicle histories, sales tax violations and other deliberately deceptive practices. Crown Prosecutor said he targeted the most vulnerable consumers, such as recent immigrants who had poor English. There was deliberate planning to perpetrate each fraud – finding a low priced vehicle, rolling back the odometer, detailing to improve the appearance of the vehicle, creating a false history, finding a suitable “victim,” forging official documents and tax fraud. This occurred on more than one occasion.
As the buyers were “complicit” in the fraud, there was no consumer restitution for 12 of the 15 counts. They agreed to false documentation to save on taxes – a common practice used by curbers. This makes consumers fearful to go to authorities when something goes awry.
He received a one-year conditional sentence (effectively house arrest, except for medical emergencies or to work, with the terms easing as the year progresses). He also agreed to perform 100 hours of community service.
I’m indebted to the Vehicle Sales Authority of BC for providing the research necessary for produce last week’s typical curber profile story and today’s account of real scams. Please, if you don’t want to buy from an established dealership, do your due diligence as to the registration and condition of the vehicle you plan to buy.
Typically, the curber is a male, 45 or older but they can come in all ages, shapes and sizes…
Curbers often lurk online and in the small print of classified advertising sections.
But no matter where they choose to advertise their cars for sale, their driving desire is to make you a bad deal dressed as a good one.
In the next two weeks, we’re going to take a look first at a typical curber profile then tell you about the activities of some specific conmen known to the authorities. It is hoped that this information will ensure you won’t fall foul of these low-lifers. I’m indebted to the Vehicle Sales Authority for providing the research necessary for me to furnish with this advice.
I guess I’ve always had a cartoonish image of what a curber looks like but the VSA put me straight on that notion. Typically, the curber is a male, 45 or older but they can come in all ages, shapes and sizes. Frequently, they have a ‘your neighbour’ look, avoiding anything flashy in appearance that might draw attention. Sometimes dresses like a mechanic or labourer who needs the cash urgently for one reason or another.
He always have a story about the vehicle that sounds reasonable, given that the buyer is really only interested in the car, not the story. However, sometimes there will be an elaborate yarn designed to elicit an emotional reaction; for example, he’s selling for his dad’s widow, his kid is going back to the home country for a visit. This is a way they can “bridge” the registration – sell a vehicle still registered in someone else’s name.
The only way to reach him is by cell phone, he’s slippery about providing details and his availability. He will always be alone and usually has a pay-as-you-go phone. This enables him to switch SIM cards and use different numbers in ads for different cars. Here’s a tip: scan ads and see if any others read similarly to the one detailing the car you are interested in. They may be slick but one downfall is their creative writing ability! – They usually use the same language and terms in all of their ads.
The viewing location will always be a parking lot, most often at a mall or large grocery store parking lot, and occasionally at service stations. He will avoid going for a test drive, saying that he’s not allowed to let someone else drive the vehicle for insurance reasons or the vehicle doesn’t have enough gas.
If there is a test drive, the radio will be turned on up loud to drown out any mechanical problems. If the customer wants to take the vehicle for an inspection, the curber will accuse them of not trusting them!
Always in a hurry because another potential buyer is coming by shortly. Chats constantly to keep the buyer from having time to think clearly. Curbers are all good salespersons, they know how to deflect and direct conversations. They are engaging and portray themselves as being on the buyer’s side; “not like those bad dealers” in some disreputable area of town.
They want cash and will take the purchaser to their choice of autoplan agent.
I have to say if you get this far along in a transaction and you haven’t cottoned on, after reading this advice you might be destined to be a victim!
My next vehicle came from a used car wholesaler.
There was nothing wrong with it, but he couldn’t find a dealer who wanted it. I gladly took it off his hands.
How hip was I? I had a new source of newer vehicles that would come right to me.
Two-year-old car for sale. No previous accident history reported, only 35,000km on it. Call with offer.
Shortly after, I got a call from a young man. His car had just broken down, and he needed a new one fast. He agreed to meet me at the local construction site where he worked.
He was just finishing up his lunch when I arrived. He was wearing his construction uniform and I immediately noticed his tired eyes.
I felt bad for the poor fellow, and I was glad that I was selling him a reliable vehicle. He didn’t need another headache on top of everything. I even knocked $500 off the price I wanted.
*def’n Wholesaler – Vehicle sellers may call themselves auto brokers or wholesalers to sound legitimate and cheaper. But if they’re selling to private buyers, they must be licensed as a dealer. Like any curber – an individual posing as a private seller but selling vehicles as a business – wholesalers and brokers offer none of the protection the law provides for purchases from a Vehicle Sales Authority licensed dealer. Walt learned that lesson, but his buyer paid the price.
Check it out online: WatchOutForWalt.com
It was a smooth transaction. The guy looked happy and thanked me immensely for all the help. I beamed back at him.
Around 5:00 a.m. the next morning, I got a call. It was the construction worker, yelling so loudly that I could barely understand him.
“THEY TOOK IT AWAY,” he said over and over again. “REPOSSESSED!”
I hung up on him and tried to make sense of the situation.
Why would the car be taken away in the middle of the night? Who’s “they”?
Liens. Of course. The car had a lien on it. That’s why it wouldn’t sell on a lot. The bank must have seized it due to an unpaid balance.
As before, I panicked. I didn’t want to get involved in this right now. Sure, I sold him the car, but how was I supposed to know it had a lien on it? I realized the wholesaler had scammed me! If that fellow had asked for a CarProof history report or even a provincial lien search, I’d be the one screaming.
Over the next several hours, I kept letting my phone go to voicemail – I couldn’t bear speaking to the young man. I knew I had to switch phones again.
I felt a bit ashamed. But I needed to be selfish about this. At this point, the best thing for me was cash.
And lots of it.
Check it out online: WatchOutForWalt.com
The Vehicle Sales Authority of BC, CarProof Vehicle History Reports and ICBC are combining forces to help keep car buyers safe. Follow our series on Walt the Curber to learn how much you risk when you buy a used vehicle without proof of its history or condition. The price of buying a car from a curber can turn out to be much higher if you have nowhere to turn. Learn what you can do to protect yourself.
I remember my first time. It was so easy. So thrilling. And I walked away with a couple thousand bucks in my pocket.
It happened after the summer flooding in Alberta and southeastern B.C. Basements filled, streets were running with water, and cars were left to float and sink.
One day, I walked past a private home and saw, what I thought, was a relatively normal car for sale cheap.
Apart from a couple of scratches and damp seats, it seemed road worthy. I asked about the car. It was found full of flood water. It wasn’t insured at the time of the flood. And the owner wanted nothing to do with it.
I bought the car for a few hundred bucks. Originally, I had no intent to do what I did. I planned to sell the car for parts. But it must have dried out as it sat. The engine still ran.
Suddenly, I had an idea. Since the car looked fine, no one had to know its history. I was a genius.
*What is a Curber? – An individual posing as a private seller, but selling vehicles for profit as a business. A curber often misrepresents the history and condition of a vehicle. Curbers offer none of the protections the law provides for purchases from a Vehicle Sales Authority licensed dealer.
(Check it out online: WatchOutForWalt.com)
After a night in the garage with a heater and a little scrubbing, I posted an ad on Craigslist:
“Car for sale. Bought new car – no room in garage. Need to sell ASAP!!! Scratches, but in great condition. Call cell and we’ll talk price.”
Minutes later I got a call from a sixteen-year old kid – a little younger than my son. I told him to meet me at the local mall at 6:00 p.m.
I arrived at 6:20, telling him I was in a hurry to pick up my son from soccer practice. Turns out he played, too. After some soccer gossip, we got down to business.
I knew a kid his age just wanted a ride to show off to his friends, so we spent very little time on the details. I just told him the car was in perfect condition and was never in any accidents.
“No problems as far as I know,” I said.
The kid was sold. He trusted me. I never gave him my full name, and he never gave me his. He gave me the cash, I gave him the car. I had never registered it in my name. Smart. All was good.
Later, I learned about flood vehicles. Flooding can damage the computer system, which control things like the brakes, and rots the vehicle from inside out. And flood vehicles don’t qualify for on-road licensing or use in B.C. or anywhere in Canada. Who knew?
My mind went to the kid I sold the vehicle to. I felt a twinge of guilt. I hoped it wouldn’t fail while he was driving. Then my eyes darted to my stash of cash…
Check it out online: WatchOutForWalt.com