Hays County Tax Assessor-Collector Offers Tips to Prevent Fraudulent Car Titles
Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – Following several recent instances of fraudulent vehicle titles uncovered in Hays County, Tax Assessor-Collector Luanne Caraway offered several tips to help used-vehicle purchasers safeguard their new vehicles. Caraway noted that technology makes it easier today for a seller to change a title designation of “salvaged” or “flooded” to reflect an undamaged condition.
“We recommend that whenever possible both the buyer and seller come to the tax office to transfer the title,” Caraway said. “For the buyer, if there are any discrepancies about the vehicle that were not communicated by the seller, such as a vehicle being flooded, rebuilt or salvaged, the buyer would learn about it when they come in to transfer the title and would be able to address it with the seller at that point. For the seller, it is a guarantee that the buyer did transfer the title into his or her name and that the sale and transfer is complete.”
An incorrect name on a title will keep someone from getting their annual combined registration/inspection sticker. Buyers who do not transfer the title into their own name within 30 days of the date of sale noted on the back of the title will accrue a delinquent transfer penalty of $25 per month up to $250 maximum. When people forget to transfer the title in a timely manner and then sell the vehicle, the new owner is unable to complete the title transaction without tracking down the seller and having that person take the correct steps to put the vehicle in his or her name first.
Buyers also have the option of checking a title in advance. For a small fee, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles can run the VIN of a vehicle through the National Motor Vehicle Information System and the resulting title history can alert prospective buyers to any issues they weren’t made aware of by the seller. For information, visit www.txdmv.gov and click on the Title Check icon.
Caraway also recommended that persons conduct their vehicle sale/purchase in a safe, neutral place, such as a police department parking lot set up to offer a Safe Trade Zone, like the one offered by the San Marcos Police Department. SMPD provides two well-lit spaces in its parking lot as well as the use of its lobby (both under surveillance cameras) to conduct business between buyers and sellers as well as for persons conducting child custody exchanges, house rentals and any exchanges based on online transactions.
Additional ways to avoid being a financial victim include accepting a cashier’s check only when the bank is open and calling the bank (not a phone number given to you by the seller) to verify a cashier’s check; ask for proof of the seller’s identity and take a photo of the seller with a cell phone and be discreet when carrying large sums of cash to or from a transaction.