CHP warns of private-party sales of stolen vehicles

Submitted to the Tribune

SACRAMENTO – The California Highway Patrol reminds the public to always remain alert and take caution when conducting private-party vehicle sale transactions. The CHP’s Auto Theft Taskforce has seen an ongoing issue of citizens being victimized as innocent purchasers of stolen vehicles.  

With these crimes, the fraudulent vehicle advertisements on web-based platforms often resemble legitimate sales, with altered Vehicle Identification Numbers and forged vehicle titles at the time of purchase. However, when the buyer attempts to register the vehicle with the fraudulent paperwork, law enforcement is alerted, and the stolen vehicle is returned to the legal owner. This results in a financial loss for the victim.

Suspects appear to be targeting the Spanish speaking Hispanic community, and many of the sellers have been from Texas.  They have been found with a fraudulent California Driver license to match the name on the stolen vehicle title. Due to the complexity of the suspects’ actions, it can be difficult to identify and locate them after the transaction. 

While the CHP is diligently focused on identifying and investigating fraudulent sale ads on-line, the public is reminded to be cautious buying vehicles from private parties. It is suggested they contact their local vehicle theft task force investigators about deals that seem too good to be true. Over the past month, the CHP Valley Division arrested seven individuals and recovered five VIN switched vehicles in Manteca and Tracy alone. To locate your nearest auto theft taskforce, contact your local CHP area office by visiting

National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck offers a free lookup service provided to the public to assist in determining if a vehicle may have a record of an insurance theft claim, and has not been recovered, or has ever been reported as a salvage vehicle by participating NICB member insurance companies. To perform a lookup, a vehicle identification number is required. This service can be found at

The CHP is well-suited to work with allied law enforcement agencies statewide to help lead and support criminal investigations, identify suspects, and follow leads to combat theft. The CHP’s mission is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service and Security.

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