Scam of selling stolen vehicles taking over Las Vegas Valley; Here’s how law enforcement is responding

Fooling drivers into buying stolen vehicles is becoming a nationwide issue, including here in the Las Vegas Valley.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 1:49 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Fooling drivers into buying stolen vehicles is becoming a nationwide issue, including here in the Las Vegas Valley.

The DMV’s compliance enforcement division is on top of catching people doing this illegal act.

Thieves will steal a car, then to cover it up, they take a VIN number from a similar make and model of car and make fake VIN plates that they will then place onto the stolen car.

“We try to find the ones on social media being sold to Nevada citizens,” said John Decker, chief of compliance enforcement with Nevada DMV.

Social media is the main source of this transaction, authorities say.

“There is a subculture that advertises licenses plates and temporary tags and vehicles for sale on social media websites that aren’t necessarily designed for that, said Dustin Mumpower, an officer with the compliance enforcement division.

Through its DMV VIN inspection station, the compliance enforcement division gets one to two stolen vehicles per week. Officers locate about one stolen vehicle per month online, when the team goes undercover and recovers over $1 million per year.

The team goes undercover by pretending to purchase the stolen vehicles that are posted online. While waiting for a response, they locate the targeted vehicle through surveillance and stake out in the area.

“Making sure that if it had moved, we had officers on it before it could cause any damage to the public,” said Decker.

When the car moves, so do the officers.

“We initiated a traffic stop, and determined the vehicle had a fictitious license plate and was driven by someone who failed to identify themselves,” said Decker.

If the VIN does come back as stolen, the car gets towed and is returned to the current legal owner.

Here are some red flags to look out for according to the DMV:

  • Make sure you have some kind of documentation of the seller’s identity and contact information. If there are problems with paperwork later on, you’ll want to be able to get ahold of them.
  • Never purchase a vehicle from someone other than the person you initiated contact with. Scammers will often send proxies to complete the sale in person to mitigate their own risk.
  • If there are any discrepancies or excuses when it comes to the paperwork, walk away.