Toronto, Ontario – Car buyers need to be careful of curbsiders and other fraudulent sellers, especially when buying from free online classified sites, warns the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC). Curbsiders are dealers, often unlicensed, who pose as private sellers with a single car to sell.

OMVIC is launching an aggressive province-wide public awareness campaign to alert consumers to the problem. Provincial legislation in Ontario offers protection for vehicle sales between consumers and Ontario-registered dealers, but it does not apply to private sales. Registered dealers are listed at BuyWithConfidence or can be identified by a blue and yellow “Ontario-Registered Dealer” door decal.

“Curbsiders and fradusters love sites like Kijiji and Craigslist, because they can pose as private sellers and run their operations under the radar,” said Carey Smith, director of investigations for OMVIC. “Ontario consumers need to be vigilant, because consumer protection does not apply to private sales. The vehicles on these free classified sites do not often come certified or with service or vehicle history reports. We just completed an investigation of 115 ads on Kijiji and Craiglist, and half of the vehicles were uncertified and had no service records, among other issues.”

Out of the 115 reviewed vehicle ads, 19 sellers claimed they were offering the vehicles on behalf of others. If a consumer purchases a vehicle from someone other than the vehicle owner, the original owner can reclaim the vehicle.

Fraudsters don’t always have a vehicle for sale, and are just after money. “Do not continue negotiating if a seller asks for a deposit, requests you to send money, or asks for banking or credit card information,” Smith said. “While OMVIC does not investigate fraud cases involving private sales or sales outside Ontario, these issues are very real possibilities and consumers should protect themselves.”

Ontario-registered dealers pay into the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund to cover certain issues that cannot be resolved. Consumers who purchase from registered dealers and have been wronged may be eligible for up to a maximum of $45,000 from the fund.

OMVIC offers the following suggestions to avoid problems when looking at cars on unregulated online sites:

– Look out for unusual or “fishy” stories. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

– Ask if the vehicle is certified and e-tested, and request to see all the documentation.

– Ask for a land-line or work number to validate that the seller is as he or she claims to be.

– Do not buy the vehicle if the seller’s name does not appear on the vehicle’s ownership registration.

– View the vehicle before you make any type of payment.

– Meet sellers at their residence or place of work, not at malls or out-of-the-way parking lots.

In 2008, the Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario conducted a study of 12,410 vehicles advertised for sale through online ads and found that 2,066 were placed by curbsiders.

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