On July 17, 2014, the Montgomery County Auto Theft Task Force (MCATTF) received information about a possible scam on Craig’s List. Detectives answered an ad selling a used vehicle and arranged for the seller to meet with undercover officers. Checking the vehicle and the accompany title paperwork; detectives discovered the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) had been removed and replaced with another one. The title paperwork returned to the altered/replaced VIN and did not return to the vehicle being sold. Detectives also learned that the vehicle was reported stolen in Harris County.
The seller was identified as Dyanna Meza W/F, 24 yoa from Houston. Ms., Meza was arrested and taken to the Montgomery County Jail charged with Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle and the stolen vehicle was taken to the MCATTF’s storage lot where it will be returned the rightful owner.
The public is reminded that there are numerous scams on Craig’s List and other similar publications. These include stolen vehicles, vehicle parts, trailers; title and odometer fraud. Buyers are reminded of the old adage “If it seems to be too good to be true it probably is!”
Anyone planning to make a purchase from a private individual, from an ad on the internet, newspaper or other publication should check the vehicle and documents very carefully. Make sure that the title is an original and that the VIN matches the one on the title. Buyers may wish consider conducting the transaction at the local tax office as they will have all the necessary paperwork and notaries to complete the transaction.
If buying car parts or items without title paperwork make sure to receive a Bill of Sale and remember that in many scams the seller will tell you that the title is lost and you can get a new title with the bill of sale.
In many trailer purchases, the seller tells the buyer that the trailer is homemade, when in fact it is a stolen manufactured trailer with the identifying features hidden or ground off. Thieves count on the buyer being in a hurry to negotiate the best price and not prepared to properly check paperwork and other identifying numbers.
Historically, more vehicle thefts and burglaries occur in Texas during summer months, which is why the Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA) have declared July “Watch Your Car Month.”
During “Watch Your Car Month,” representatives within 29 vehicle crime task forces funded by ABTPA will be working in their communities to remind Texas drivers to protect their vehicles and possessions to avoid falling victim to thieves.
Drivers should remember that thieves will strike where you are most likely to leave vehicles and can include homes, malls, gyms, movie theaters, hotels, and even places of worship!
For additional tips on preventing vehicular crime, or on information about “Watch Your Car Month”; contact your local Auto Theft Task Force, or call 800-CAR-WATCH for further information on how not to become a victim of vehicular crimes.
Press Release by:
J.E. Sclider, Lieutenant
Montgomery County Auto Theft Task Force