By Kurtis Ming

FAIRFIELD (CBS13) — You’ve heard of people flipping houses, but how about cars?

The practice known as curbstoning is illegal without a dealers license, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, but it’s happening all across the state.

Consumers have ended up buyers cars with odometers rolled back — and in some cases with vehicles too dangerous to drive.

Beale AFB Airman Michael Berman searched for a safe car, ahead of the birth of his 4-month-old daughter. He found a 1997 Honda Accord advertised on Craigslist with 157,000 miles on it.

“I tried looking under the car to see if there was any frame damage,” he said.

Berman said the seller described himself as a family man and said the vehicle had a clean title.

Berman later realized almost everything he was told was a lie.

The clean title he was given was counterfeit, and this 1997 Accord is actually a 1994 Accord, deemed salvaged last year.

State records show the odometer had been rolled back at least 60,000 miles.

“You feel like you just got scammed,” he said.

He later realized the same person who sold him the car, had several cars for sale online. He was just the latest victim of an illegal car dealer flipping cars.

DMV Information On Curbstoning

· 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.

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